Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Freedom In Congo Square

Freedom In Congo Square

Picture book
It's really exciting to discover a little known part of history
in the picture book section of a library. This happens more often
than most people suspect. Carole Boston Weatherford's Freedom In
Congo Square is a real gem in this subgenre.
Hundreds of years ago Louisiana slaves had something that their
peers in other regions didn't. They were given Sundays off. Those
who lived close enough to a field that later became known as Congo
Square were able to gather there to perform their music and dances.
(Elsewhere African music and drums were banned.) The tradition
continued even after the abolition of slavery. The music performed
there was a big part of the evolution of jazz.
Freedom In Congo Square tells the story in eloquently sparse
verse and colorful, fluid paintings. In the first pages the hardships
of slaves' live are interspersed with their longing for their day of
"The dreaded lash, too much to bear.
Four more days to Congo Square."
The latter pages are a celebration of their free time and space:
"This piece of earth was a world apart.
Congo Square was freedom's heart."
This book just begs to be read aloud, even if you have no
audience but a cat or dog! It's perfect for school and public library
read alouds.
On a personal note, last week I had a wonderful opportunity to hear
two very talented journalists speak at UMaine. On Monday Bangor Daily
News' own Erin Rhoda talked about her special section about a young
man lost all too soon to drugs. On Tuesday Boston Globe's Kathryn
Kingsbury spoke about her Pulitzer prize winning work on the plight of
workers in the restaurant industry. Needless to say both were
fascinating speakers.
A great big shout out goes out to Erin, Katie, and all their sisters
(and brothers) in the field who can make us care about people we
probably wouldn't otherwise give a thought about.
Jules Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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