Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 336

Picture Book: We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song

Author: Debbie Levy

Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton 

Summary:  Inspiring the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s is just one component of this song’s rich history. The lyrics serve as part of the illustrations to the story of the song. The book begins by explaining how American slaves sang to soothe their suffering and to declare that they were human beings. It goes on to explain that once slavery ended black people in America were not really free. Believing their circumstances could get better, they still sang and they began protesting. A church song, I Will Overcome, was adapted and heard by Martin Luther King, Jr. who took the song as he worked for civil rights. Many important events of the Civil Rights Movement are mentioned here, including the sit-ins and the march in Washington D.C. I had not known of the Freedom Singers, who traveled all over America singing in places such as high schools, concert halls, and even jails. The book goes on to explain how the song traveled to South Africa to fuel the movement against apartheid. It traveled to other places in the world, wherever people longed for a better life and wanted to sing their determination. The book culminates in 2008 when this song was very present as Barak Obama was elected president of the United States.  

Update! There is new book about this song illustrated by Bryan Collis. It has many historical references to the Civil Rights Movement of the mid 1900s and contemporary political protests.
Hanna’s Comments: This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights March from Selma, AL to Montgomery, AL, just down the highway from my home. Surely this song was sung many times as they walked. I salute them today with this small offering of a book that celebrates their work. Even as a middle class white woman, I know I have been richly blessed by the courage, efforts, and sacrifices of those marchers. I especially thank them for the spiritual context that many of them gave to their struggle. In the back of this book, there is an informative timeline, noting important milestones in the life of this song. Also, you’ll find a list of sources, suggestions for further reading, and links to recordings of the song.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Jump at the Sun, 2013

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up

# of Pages: 32

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: None at present for this book, but you’ll find many videos of this song being sung on-line.

PBT Category: Song Book, Post 2K  

PBT Topics this Book connects with: abilities, abuse/abuse of power, action, America, art, aspiration/dreams, bravery/courage, brokenness, bullying/martyrs/persecution/oppression, challenges, change, choir/music/singing/songs, civil rights, commitment, confidence, cruelty, difficulties, disabilities/handicaps/limitations, discord, disputes/fighting/opposition, encouragement, equality/inequality, exclusion/inclusion, faith/faithfulness, freedom, heroes, hope, injustice, integration, intolerance, justice, leadership/servant leadership, non-violence/peaceful resistance, passion, patience, perseverance, power, prayer, race relations/racism, rebellion, segregation, sin, slavery/slaves, social justice, steadfastness, strength/strength in God, unity 

Scripture Connections: Seek the Lord and the Lord’s strength… (1 Chronicles 16:11); ask what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8); suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character… (Romans 5:3-5); blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial (James 1:12);  

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to children who are learning about modern religious heroes or how music, as a tool in worship or elsewhere, can inspire work for social justice and political change. 

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