Cover image for Let It shine : stories of Black women freedom fighters
Let It shine : stories of Black women freedom fighters
[Reprint edition]
Publication Information:
Boston, MA : Sandpiper/Harcourt Mifflin Harcourt, [2013], c2000.
Physical Description:
xi, 107 p. : col. ill. ; 28 cm.
Sojourner Truth -- Biddy Mason -- Harriet Tubman -- Ida B. Wells-Barnett -- Mary McLeod Bethune -- Ella Josephine Baker -- Dorothy Irene Height -- Rosa Parks -- Fannie Lou Hamer -- Shirley Chisholm.
Reading Level:
1000 L Lexile
Added Author:
Tells the stories of ten African-American women freedom fighters.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 920 PIN 1 1

On Order



Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus and sparked a boycott that changed America. Harriet Tubman helped more than three hundred slaves escape the South on the Underground Railroad. Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The lives these women led are part of an incredible story about courage in the face of oppression; about the challenges and triumphs of the battle for civil rights; and about speaking out for what you believe in--even when it feels like no one is listening. Andrea Davis Pinkney's moving text and Stephen Alcorn's glorious portraits celebrate the lives of ten bold women who lit the path to freedom for generations. Includes biographies of Sojournor Truth, Biddy Mason, Harriet Tubman, Ida B.Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm.

Author Notes

Andrea Davis Pinkney is the author of numerous award-winning picture book biographies. A former editor at Essence Magazine who now edits children's books, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Stephen Alcorn is an acclaimed painter and printmaker who has created artwork for a number of anthologies. He lives in Cambridge, New York.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-Engaging text and glorious art are combined in this collection of sketches celebrating the contributions of 10 women who moved forward the cause of civil rights in America. Following a preface that describes her own family roots in the civil rights movement and their influence on her, Pinkney presents her heroines chronologically, from Sojourner Truth to Shirley Chisholm, in verbal portraits that capture the subjects' spirit and personalities amid biographical highlights. Blending straightforward narrative with a lively storytelling style, the author balances the hardships and racial injustice that these women faced against their faith, strength of character, and determination. They include Harriet Tubman, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Rosa Parks, as well as Biddy Mason, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, and Fannie Lou Hamer. The book includes many quotes, incidents, and details that lead readers down their personal paths to historical recognition. However, it is Alcorn's vibrant, inspired oil paintings that make this book a standout. A full-page stylized portrait appears opposite the first page of each story; it is filled with symbolic details that are elucidated in the text. A brilliant example is a larger-than-life Harriet Tubman balanced on one knee over a railroad track with arms diagonally outstretched, bridgelike, as tiny travelers make their way up the steep height toward the freedom star. Smaller paintings appear within the stories, carrying the message further. Line, color, and canvas texture give the pictures depth and dynamism, vastly enriching the reading experience. This excellent collection is a must for every library.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Pinkney (Silent Thunder) presents eloquent portraits of 10 intrepid African-American activists for the causes of abolition, women's rights and civil rights. Exploring these individuals' childhoods as well as their accomplishments as adults, the author smoothly distills biographical information so as to hold the attention of young readers. Her selection of subjects includes the prominent (Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Shirley Chisholm) as well as such lesser-knowns as Fannie Lou Hamer, an indefatigable campaigner for African-Americans' right to vote. Pinkney's writing is spiced with colloquialisms ("She didn't shy back for nobody," she says of Sojourner Truth) and useful imagery (describing this same crusader's delivery of her renowned "Ain't I a woman?" speech, the author notes, "She was the only black woman in the place, and when she stepped to the pulpit, some folks looked at her like she was a stain on their purest linens"). Featuring creatively skewed perspective and proportion, Alcorn's (I, Too, Sing America) oil paintings offer allegorical interpretations of his subjects' lives. Ages 8-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate, Middle School) Andrea Davis Pinkney Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters; illus. by Stephen Alcorn (Intermediate, Middle School) In writing about Elizabeth I and her artful ability to elude marriage, Krull remarks, "She was always deliciously in control." The same accolade might be given to Krull: with her trusted artist companion of five previous `Lives' books (presidents, athletes, artists, writers, and musicians), Krull shows herself in command of her material, and having a confection of a time. Seemingly disparate elements are tellingly brought together. About peace activist and ardent suffragist Jeanette Rankin, Krull writes: "Famous for her lemon meringue pie, she befriended children from the neighborhood, seeking their opinions, sharing stories of her life"; about Golda Meir, "She had four or five bodyguards and was more afraid of blindness than of death-during times of danger she would cover her eyes." These sentences capture the spirit of the collection: a pinch of this, a sprinkling of that. Except for Eleanor Roosevelt, who as perhaps the "most influential woman of all time" is allotted five pages, the histories of these twenty larger-than-life women are condensed into two or three pages. To further assert their subjects' influence as world-class citizens, several of Hewitt's inventive, gently caricatured portraits, all with oversized heads, rest on globes (Eleanor of Aquitaine rides horseback over Europe; West African queen Nzingha dances over Africa). The legendary Harriet Tubman, whose landscape quilt drapes to shape the globe on which she stands, is the single figure who also appears in Andrea Davis Pinkney's handsomely designed Let It Shine. Stephen Alcorn's more emotionally powerful abstract art portrays Tubman, one hand resting on a railroad track, the other touching the North Star in a dramatic diagonal. Arranged, like the Krull, in chronological order of birth, Pinkney's book focuses on ten Black Women Freedom Fighters. Although, as one might expect, Pinkney includes Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks, she states her intention to "put a new spin on some of the tried-and-true sheroes of human equality, and to introduce some of those who have had just as strong an impact on social justice but whose praises have not been sung loudly enough." In her passion to reveal the strength of these remarkable women, Pinkney rises to moments of linguistic power: often, colloquial language affirms a powerful cadence ("She didn't shy back for nobody"); at other times a strong original image carries her meaning (about the success of the Montgomery bus boycott: "Black people sat in the front, enjoying their view of justice"). Occasionally, however, overwriting obscures the subjects. Whereas the text occasionally falters, Alcorn's extraordinary bold tableaux, framed like stage pieces, consistently declare their own individuality as well as that of their subjects. Both collections will likely serve their aim: to, in Pinkney's words, "keep one's eye on those prizes that will lead to a better world" and to entice readers toward more fleshed-out biographies. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

This exciting collective biography features ten important women in the historic struggle to win freedom and civil rights. Pinkney (Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra, 1998, etc.) tells the well-known stories of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks. Other women such as Biddy Mason and Dorothy Irene Height are in the history books but are less familiar. They span the 18th and 19th centuries, from Sojourner Truth, born into slavery circa 1797, to Shirley Chisholm, born in 1924 and living today. Each story contains essential demographic and biographical information written in an accessible, informal style, which provides a vivid picture of the women's lives, their personalities, backgrounds, and the actions that made them memorable. Many of the women also had to fight against prejudice toward women in addition to their causes. Some did not live to see the results of their struggle, but successful or not, all were courageous leaders who paved the way for a more democratic and inclusive America. The introduction gives the reader a glimpse into Pinkney's own life and her rationale for the selection of biographies. A bibliography for further reading lists what are probably her research sources, but are not identified as such and quotations within the chapters are not footnoted in any way. Another quibble is a small mistake in the biography of Dorothy Irene Height as to the two degrees she received in four years. Both were in educational psychology, but Pinkney lists the bachelor's as in social work. However, these flaws do not compromise the value of the book. Alcorn's (Langston Hughes, not reviewed, etc.) paintings, oil on canvas, are as magnificent as his figures and add much to this handsome volume. Vibrant colors, rhythmic lines, and collage-like compositions are allegorical in design and convey the essence of each woman and her work. A truly inspiring collection for personal as well as institutional libraries. (Biography. 8-12) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-8, younger for reading aloud. In informal, conversational style, this lively collective biography tells of 10 extraordinary black women. From Sojourner Truth to Shirley Chisholm, this is also a view of African American history through individual lives. The chapter on Rosa Parks is excellent, showing her not as a sweet, innocent, "tired" little thing but as a strong political activist and NAACP member who knew exactly what her refusal meant. There are also some lesser-known heroes who fought against racism and sexism for the right to be heard. There's no criticism of any of them, no mistakes; the tone is inspirational. Pinkney includes a long bibliography, but no source notes. Stephen Alcorn's allegorical oil portraits are dramatic and beautiful, with swirling, rhythmic curves that connect the bending sharecropper with the rolling earth and shining light. The immediacy of the text and the spacious design of the large volume make this a natural for reading aloud. Hazel Rochman