Monday, January 5, 2009

Book Review: Freedom Song

Freedom Song: Young Voices and the Struggle for Civil Rights by Mary C. Turck. (Grades 4+)

On a September Sunday in 1963, the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham echoed with chatter and laughter. Teenagers combed their hair and checked themselves in the mirrors. That Sunday, on Youth Day, they would lead the services. They were ready to stand in front of everyone, ready to lead, ready for life.

And then life ended. A bomb blast shook the church, tumbled the walls, and killed four young girls. Their church was bombed, their lives were ended, by racists attacking black people and the civil rights movement.

Nearly 45 years later, another group of young people assembled in the same church basement. Once again, young people combed their hair and checked themselves in the mirrors. On the first day of their Freedom Tour, the Chicago Children's Choir got ready to sing in the 16th Street Baptist Church.

So begins this comprehensive look at the songs that inspired, motivated, and educated people during the Civil Rights Movement. This book is not only a text about the history of slavery and civil rights, it's a chronicle of the Chicago Children's Choir's tour of historical sites in the American south. Historic photos are shown alongside photos of modern children taking their places and singing songs that sent a message to the world.

We shall overcome.

From the roots of the music in African songs and rhythms to spirituals, gospel, jazz, and protest songs, Freedom Song examines how songs grew from and affected the civil rights movement. There is a ton of information in this book. Much of the information about the civil rights movement has been explored in other texts, but this book's focus on music and its accompanying CD help it stand out.

The book comes with a CD recording of the Chicago Children's Choir: Songs on the Road to Freedom. 18 of the songs discussed in the book are included on this CD so readers can hear the songs that they're reading about. An index, appendix with song lyrics, and comprehensive list of further resources makes this an excellent book for research.

This book would be a great addition to classroom discussions about the Civil Rights Movement and I'd pair it with When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan. As you're planning units and displays for Black History Month, don't forget Freedom Song.

Happy Non-Fiction Monday! Head on over to Picture Book of the Day for the roundup.