From Slave Ship to Freedom Road

by Julius Lester and Rod Brown

Julius Lester was invited to write a narrative to accompany 21 of Rod Brown's disturbing... read more

Julius Lester was invited to write a narrative to accompany 21 of Rod Brown's disturbing paintings of scenes from African American history. He was a perfect choice, given his earlier writings about the "slave experience" for young people: To Be a Slave (1968), Long Journey Home (1972), and This Strange New Feeling (1982), all published by Dial. Lester himself made a perfect choice by creating multilayered narratives requiring responses from the viewer/reader. By shaping the book as he did, Lester assumed a basic amount of prior historical knowledge on the part of his readers, whoever they are. He wanted to challenge them to realize they bring their own perspective to the ideas and images in the book. Racism is real, and so is its legacy. Just because this is complicated doesn't imply that young people should not think about it. To encourage interaction with the book's content, Lester developed provocative "imagination exercises." Some are addressed to white people (it's their history, too), and others to African Americans. As readers of all backgrounds are confronted by the paintings, exercises, and other narratives, they react, because it's difficult, if not impossible, to maintain any emotional distance while handling this provocative volume. Lester writes, "Freedom. It's like a promise we are still learning how to keep." From Slave Ship to Freedom Road provides a challenging itinerary for one part of a supremely important journey. It's well worth the trip. Honor Book, 1998 CCBC Coretta Scott King Award Discussion: Author; Honor Book, 1998 CCBC Coretta Scott King Award Discussion: Illustrator. (Ages 11-15)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 1998

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