When we think about the fight against racial discrimination and segregation, most of us think about mid-twentieth century fights to gain access to schools, public transportation, lunch counters, and the vote. But this fight began long before that era and was fought on many fronts by people of all ages, as two new picture books show.
A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story
Authors: Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2020
Themes: segregation, African-American history, amusement parks, carousel, courage, Civil Rights
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The true story of how a ride on a carousel made a powerful Civil Rights statement
A Ride to Remember tells how a community came together—both black and white—to make a change. When Sharon Langley was born in the early 1960s, many amusement parks were segregated, and African-American families were not allowed entry. This book reveals how in the summer of 1963, due to demonstrations and public protests, the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated and opened to all for the first time. Co-author Sharon Langley was the first African-American child to ride the carousel. This was on the same day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Langley’s ride to remember demonstrated the possibilities of King’s dream. This book includes photos of Sharon on the carousel, authors’ notes, a timeline, and a bibliography.
Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.
Lizzie Demands a Seat! Elizbeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights
Author: Beth Anderson
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Publisher/date: Calkins Creek, an imprint of Boyds Mills & Kane/2020
Themes: segregation, courage, New York City, New York State history, African-American history, streetcars, Civil Rights
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In 1854, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, an African American schoolteacher, fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation.
One hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings tried to board a streetcar in New York City on her way to church. Though there were plenty of empty seats, she was denied entry, assaulted, and threatened all because of her race–even though New York was a free state at that time. Lizzie decided to fight back. She told her story, took her case to court–where future president Chester Arthur represented her–and won! Her victory was the first recorded in the fight for equal rights on public transportation, and Lizzie’s case set a precedent. Author Beth Anderson and acclaimed illustrator E. B. Lewis bring this inspiring, little-known story to life in this captivating nonfiction book.
Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.
I paired these books because they provide a broader history of the long-fought battle to end racial discrimination and segregation. In A Ride to Remember, readers learn about the efforts to integrate an amusement park in Baltimore, MD in 1963, and the role a young child and her courageous parents played in that effort. In Lizzie Demands a Seat, readers meet Lizzie, a courageous, young, free African-American woman, who went to court to secure her right to ride any streetcar in New York City in the mid-19th century, before the abolition of slavery in the South. These accounts show that discrimination and segregation weren’t just southern practices, nor were they confined to institutions like schools and publicly-owned transport. Rather, they existed across the US at various times of our history, and affected people’s lives in more ways than many of us realize.