Today is a special day as we begin our series of posts in connection to Black History Month as we have announced and posted here. Our host this week for Nonfiction Monday is the lovely Lori Calabrese.
I thought it would be great to begin our feature with an important figure in history: Harriet Tubman who freed as many as three hundred slaves by 1860. The theme for this year, after all, is Black Women in American History and Culture.
Lyrical Text (+) Fantabulous Book Layout (+) Kadir Nelson Illustrations = Amazing Picture Book. This picture book does have it all. I love how the text contributed to the overall tone and voice of the book – all sharing the same solid message of .. faith – hope – courage. See-through bold fonts symbolize the voice of God, while words in italics show Harriet’s quiet prayers and chants to steady her soul. Kadir Nelson’s evocative and vivid imageries bring Harriet to life – allowing the reader to touch her face lined with worry and anxiety, her shoulders slumped in despair, her formidable spirit sensed in her steady gaze and hands outstretched in prayer and communion with the Lord.
A Woman Leads the Path. The Author’s Note found at the back of the book provides greater detail about Harriet Rose Tubman who was born into slavery around 1820 on a plantation in Maryland. She was only seven years old when her master rented her out for service to another household. She was around 29 when she decided to run away, seeking refuge in God’s will and her faith that God will see her through. This picture book shows that spiritual journey with Harriet carrying on a conversation with God, listening to Him speak through whippoorwills, babbling brooks, and seeing His face in strangers.
I did feel though that the title itself Moses was a bit misleading, despite the fact that it did have a caption underneath: When Harriet Tubman Led her People to Freedom. People who might not understand what the book is about might think that it was a book entirely about the Biblical Moses – rather than a sharing of Harriet’s life story narrative, which in and of itself, is also a fascinating one. As I was searching for more resources for the book, I found one that described her as the Moses of Her People – which I felt to be more apt since it carried that same dramatic flair while at the same time celebrating Harriet’s womanity and humanity.
Lessons Learned from the Past. The book begins with a Foreword that details brief snapshots of information about what slavery means and the entire historical context from which the book is drawn:
Slavery is a practice in which one person, known as a ‘master,’ is allowed through customs or even laws to own another human being. From 1619 to 1865, Africans and their descendants were enslaved in colonial America and the United States. This was the first time in history that enslavement was based solely on skin color. As property, slaves in the United States had no rights. A person born a slave was a slave for life and was forced to work long hours at sometimes dangerous tasks. Slaves who disobeyed could be severely punished.
There was also mention of the Underground Railroad – a network of kind-hearted, courageous beings who helped 40,000 – 100,000 slaves escape and find their freedom – and Harriet Tubman was at the center of this community.
I am seeing more and more that as we journey into the darkest waters of the human heart, there are always boats rowed with kindness that shall lead us back to the gentler beats of an unyieldingly-good heart. We also see people who rise up to show that there are always different dimensions and faces to humanity. And that while there is much cause for despair and frustration at man’s cruelty – there is also much to lift our spirits in these stories of grace, steadfast faith, and courage forged in chains of prayer and songs of praise.
Additional Resources. I was able to find quite a number of resources that would serve as supplementary materials for teachers who may be thinking of using this lovely book in their classroom. Here is a downloadable pdf link created by theatreiv.org which includes a brief overview of Harriet Tubman’s life as well as worksheets that can be used in class. This website of teacherlink also has a list of recommended activities that children can do in the classroom in connection with Harriet Tubman’s life. Here is a downloadable pdf link of an interview done by Kennedy-Center.org with Carole Boston Weatherford which also includes a study guide for this book. For more information about the Underground Railroad, click here to be taken to a National Geographic link which showcases an interactive and multimedia format which brings this historical period to life.
Moses: When Harriet Tubman led her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford and Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Jump at the Sun: Hyperion Books For Children, New York, 2006. Book borrowed from the NIE Library.
Caldecott Honor Book and Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. AWB Reading Challenge Update: 12 of 35
Nonfiction PictureBook Challenge: 4 of 12
Picture Book Challenge Update: 23 of 120
Caldecott Challenge Update: 1 of 24
PoC Reading Challenge Update: 1 of 25