Friday, October 23, 2015

Poetry Friday with a review of 28 Days: Moments in Black History that changed the world

When I was growing up my parents bought me a book that was called something like "On this day in history." I loved the book because I could open it on any day of the year and find out what interesting event happened on that day through history. Today's poetry title reminded me a little of that book, though I think this title is more meaningful in many ways. I say this because it carefully explores events that took place on only twenty-eight days, and the information that we are given about those days is, in effect, focused. The narrative also describes events in history that many people might know about, and it gives voice to the accomplishments of African Americans, accomplishments that are still not getting their due in many history books.

28 Days: Moments in Black History that changed the world
Charles R. Smith Jr
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Poetry and Nonfiction Picture Book
Roaring Brook Press, 2015, 978-1-59643-820-0
Throughout history there have been moments that have had an enormous impact on what came after.  Often the moments we learn about feature white people, the stories of black people all too often being forgotten or removed from the record. In this very special title the author tells us about twenty-eight days when black people did things that left a lasting impression on the world long after that moment was over.
   The first day described in the book is the day when a free African-American man called Crispus Attucks was shot by British soldiers on March 5, 1770.  Crispus was a patriot who “struck / the first blow for liberty” on that day, standing up to the redcoats and getting shot for his audacity. He was the first casualty of the American Revolutionary War.
   By day nine we have moved forward in time to the First World War. Here a poem tells the story of Henry Johnson, who fought off a platoon of Germans single-handedly to protect a friend. Henry was one of the Harlem Hellfighters, an all-black regiment that served with courage with the French military. Though he was shot and injured, Henry kept on fighting until the enemy finally withdrew.
   For day ten we are presented with a eulogy which tells the story of Madame C.J. Walker. Madame Walker was the first free child to be born in her family, but for many years her life was incredibly difficult and full of hardship. Due to the stress of her life, Madame Walker started to lose her hair when she was only in her mid-twenties. Wanting to look her best, Madame Walker looked for a beauty product that would help her, and she then went on to found a company that made and sold beauty products that were created just for African-American women. Madame Walker worked very hard and her company became so successful that she became the richest black woman in America.
   Day 16 brings us to December 1, 1955, the day when Rosa Park decided enough was enough. When ordered to “move to the back” of a bus, Rosa refused, and her act of defiance inspired others to peacefully demonstrate against the Jim Crow laws that made life so hard for African- Americans.
   Poems, quotations, and sections of nonfiction text are brought together in this book to give readers of all ages a sense of how black people, even though they have been marginalized, have had a big impact on world history. To supplement the poems and quotations, additional material has been added to the pages for every day, providing readers with background information about the event or person being featured.  Some of the people mentioned in the book will be known to readers, people such as Martha Luther King Jr., Barak Obama, and Malcom X. Others will be new to readers and they will get to “meet” all kinds of people from history who were athletes, astronauts, scientists, politicians and more.

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