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Cover image for Free at last! : stories and songs of Emancipation
Free at last! : stories and songs of Emancipation
1st ed.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2004.
Physical Description:
63 p. : col. ill. ; 30 cm.
Reading Level:
AD 910 L Lexile
Added Author:
Describes the experiences of African Americans in the South, from the Emancipation in 1863 to the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared school segregation illegal.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 973 RAP 1 1

On Order



Dramatic first-person vignettes, along with poems and spirituals, trace American black history from emancipation through the Reconstruction and segregation, to the beginnings of the black Civil Rights movement.

Author Notes

Doreen Rappaport is the author of numerous books for young readers, including the acclaimed NO MORE! SONGS AND STORIES OF SLAVE RESISTANCE - the first in what will be a trilogy of books illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Of FREE AT LAST! STORIES AND SONGS OF EMANCIPATION, she says, "This period in history was termed 'The New Era' by black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who hoped that the end of the Civil War marked the beginning of equality for black Americans. But this hope for equality quickly vanished with a series of 'legal' injustices, violence, and daily humiliations against black men, women, and children, marking this as one of the most shameful periods in American history. This book traces the courageous struggle of black Americans to re-create family life and economic independence in the face of overwhelming danger and uncertainty."

Shane W. Evans is the illustrator of several children's books, including NO MORE! STORIES AND SONGS OF SLAVE RESISTANCE by Doreen Rappaport. Of FREE AT LAST!, he says, "As in NO MORE!, I was faced with the challenge of making beautiful images out of images that are not always beautiful. There are dark moments in American history - our story - that need to be told, need to be known, and very importantly, need to be seen. It has been a welcome challenge and honor to tell these stories in pictures."

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

The creators of No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance here chronicle the African-American experience from the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 to the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation. Rappaport labels this era "one of the most shameful periods in American history" and proceeds to demonstrate the ways in which the promise of Emancipation failed to deliver. The author includes among reports of widespread discrimination, vigilante campaigns (such as Ku Klux Klan members' "night rides"), and legislation that was intended to protect blacks but frequently failed to do so, as well as the occasional bright spots in the arduous struggle for equality. Curiously, given the emotional intensity of the many tragic events of the period, the historical account seems at times dry or vague (e.g., "After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, hundreds of thousands of white men were hired to build weapons for our allies. Black leaders insisted that some of these jobs go to their people. Nothing was done"). Because of the episodic presentation, the ideas are not as integrated as in Harlem Stomp! (reviewed below). The volume is most involving when utilizing primary sources, such as poetry, songs and brief anecdotal stories about such influential individuals as Ida B. Wells, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall. Evans, on the other hand, creates a strong visual counterpart, with portraits of famous individuals every bit as strong as dramatic scenes-from a haunting image of a lynching (only the victim's feet show) and joyful paintings of theater and dance. Ages 9-12. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) In a companion volume to No More!: Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance (rev. 3/02), Rappaport samples the African-American experience from 1863 (Emancipation) to 1954 (Brown v. Board of Education). Again, she includes historical vignettes (newly emancipated Jane Kemper rescues her kidnapped children; Ida B. Wells successfully sues the railroad that had forcibly removed her from first class); and brief historical summaries (lynchings; chain gangs as a new form of slave labor). Turning from the ""inventive defiance and resistance"" of the early years, she presents notable figures such as Booker T. Washington and his critics, figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Jackie Robinson, and Thurgood Marshall. Poems and songs from the African-American canon are sprinkled throughout. The strengths here are the compelling theme--progress made with courage and grace, despite cruelty and injustice--and Evans's powerful, page-filling paintings of stalwart figures of serious mien, lending drama to the simply described events. Frustratingly, Rappaport scatters source citations, which appear variously in an introduction, acknowledgments, permissions, and ""selected sources."" Why not just list full references in the order the material appears in the book? Not only would it be more convenient for scholars, it would also be a much better model for young readers developing a sense of historical accuracy. Included are a chronology, a list of additional reading and related websites, and an index. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Gr. 4-8. Drawing on first-person accounts by leaders and ordinary people in song, poetry, memoir, letters, and court testimony, this history brings close the experience of black Americans in the U.S. from the time of emancipation to the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared separate but equal illegal. The stories are riveting.aneemper steals back her four children, who were forcibly apprenticed by her former slave master. Harriet Postle, seven months pregnant, confronts the night riders who crash into her home. And there's no sentimentality. A letter tells of a slave family reunion that is painful and disappointing. A poem shows that convict labor was slavery under a new name. As in the author's history of slavery, No More! (2002), Rappaport talks about her sources and how she has adapted them, and the readable, informal notes bring authenticity to the personal accounts. Like the narrative, Evans' dramatic oil paintings, many of them full page, show the cruelty, even of a lynching, without exploiting the horror, and his portraits of individuals, from the famous to the unknown, celebrate the courage of people who helped break the color line. The clear, spacious design will encourage browsing, and a detailed chronology, a lengthy bibliography, and source notes will help readers to find out more. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2004 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-7-In this companion to No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance (Candlewick, 2002), stories, poems, and songs about events from the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 through the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 are perfectly matched with vibrant oil paintings. The result is a glorious tribute to the lives of African-American heroes and heroines. Familiar figures, such as Booker T. Washington and Jackie Robinson, are mentioned, along with unsung individuals, such as John Solomon Lewis and Harriet Postle. Rappaport offers tidbits of information, such as the history surrounding "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," the Negro National Anthem, and even tosses in a little of the oral tradition with the legend of John Henry. These selections have a magnetic impact, encouraging readers to dig deeper to discover more about the rich heritage of African Americans. Evans successfully interprets each subject with his rich, thought-provoking paintings that leap from the pages. A well-researched, handsome title.-Tracy Bell, Durham Public Schools, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Rappaport and Evans reprise the passion and power that informed their 2002 collaboration No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance, shining their spotlight on the progress and struggles of African-Americans from 1863 to 1954. Vigorous prose is punctuated by poems, songs, and excerpts from primary sources, all of which serve to illuminate the peculiar experiences of a people freed and still not free. Vignettes from the lives of several individuals, both famous (Booker T. Washington, Jackie Robinson) and less so (a woman stealing her children back from her former master, an "Exoduster" making a new life in Kansas) add to the power and specificity of the text; the foreword carefully informs readers that "dialogue and descriptions . . . come directly from their first-person accounts." Glowing, almost monumental oils convey the pent-up anger and sadness of those depicted, both anonymous and historical, and a striking design integrates the illustrations with the text, each spread responding to its own internal need. Extensive back matter includes an illustrator's note, acknowledgments, bibliography, further reading, Web sites, and an index. (Nonfiction. 9-12) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



THE STORY OF HARRIET POSTLE Harriet Postle shifts her weight from side to side in bed. It is hard finding a comfortable sleeping position when you are seven months pregnant. She reaches over to touch her husband, when she hears a thundering noise outside. "Postle, we know you're in there! You'd better come out!" Harriet knows who is yelling -- the Ku Klux Klan men wearing masks, tall pointed caps, and long white robes. Her oldest son wakes and ducks under the mattress. The baby wakes and starts to fuss. Her husband darts out of bed, loosens three floorboards, and jumps into the hiding place they prepared months ago. She replaces the planks. She steps into her skirt to cover her nightshirt, but she is so flustered she gets entangled in the material. "Postle! Open up this door! You can't hide from us!" Harriet scoops up the baby and plops down in a chair over the hiding place. She puts her hands over the baby's ears, trying to block out the furious banging. The door crashes in. Four men in dusty boots point pistols at the mattress, under which her son cowers. "Leave my boy alone!" she shouts. One man jerks her chair out from under her. She falls to the floor, hugging her baby. The man stomps his foot on her huge stomach. "Where is your husband?" "He's not here!" He drops a rope shaped like a noose over her neck. "Tell me where he is." Her son is screaming and sobbing at the same time. The baby wails. The man presses harder on her stomach. "Where is he?" She does not answer. She will not betray her husband. It seems like a miracle but the men finally leave. Her husband comes out of hiding. She cradles her children in her arms, but she cannot stop their crying. Excerpted from Free at Last!: Stories and Songs of Emancipation by Doreen Rappaport All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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