“A moving historical tale of small actions that lead to making this land one of sweet liberty. ”
As a schoolboy in Virginia, Oscar Chapman tastes his first bitter moments of prejudices. Using the school money earned from a candy pull, he happily buys a gold-framed photograph, unknowingly of Abraham Lincoln, to decorate the school. After being expelled as a consequence, and experiencing other injustices with some friends, he yearns to take a stand. Following his life as an attorney, an opportunity arises for him to help singer Marian Anderson, who has won many fans in Europe, “yet in America, her own country, doors were still closed to her because of her race.” This story, informative yet well-told, is one of many people coming together to make a stand and thereby change the world; from a teacher and school board member on Oscar’s side during his youth, to Walter White, to Harold Ickes and even President and Eleanor Roosevelt. Culminating with an incredible turnout of 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Marian sing, this book gives importance to small actions leading to great results. The illustrations are extremely unique, though somehow fitting, in their mixed media format on chipboard. While the words speak to important historical details, the vibrant and stylized illustrations keep this firmly in the realm of enjoyable children’s stories, with swirls of graffiti-esque color adding a level of chaos and confusion that abstractly portrays the dissonance of the prejudices of the time period. The faces of the people depicted are created with just enough realism to feel a connection with them.
This inspiring story of little-known civil rights champion Oscar Chapman reminds readers that one person can truly make a difference. On Easter Sunday 1939, Marian Anderson performed at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for a crowd of over 75,000 people. The person largely responsible for putting her there was a white man, Oscar Chapman. When Chapman learned that Marian Anderson was not allowed to sing at Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin, Chapman helped produce a landmark concert that?for at least one evening?bridged the color divide to bring a city and much of the nation together. Award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson tells the inspirational story of Oscar Chapman’s lifelong commitment to ending bigotry. Illustrator Leonard Jenkins’s remarkable illustrations recreate a bygone era and pay tribute to remarkable real-life people and a magical moment in modern history. An author’s note provides additional historical context.
Oscar is bothered by the injustice he sees and experiences in his youth. How does this influence the choices he makes as an adult?
A young girl cries as she listens to Marian Anderson’s song. Have you ever felt an emotion so strong that it made you cry?
Marian Anderson’s powerful rendition of America, often known by its first line, My Country, ’Tis of Thee, is available at www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/rbm/anderson/lincoln.html. If you listen carefully, you can hear her change the lyrics, singing “To thee we sing,” instead of the traditional “Of thee I sing.” Marian Anderson knew well that America had much work ahead to “let freedom ring.”
Learning about Oscar Chapman helped me to realize how much things that happen to us as children can change our lives. Sometimes we go on to change other lives. And every once in a while, we might even change the course of history.
For Anne, Will, Lydia, and Charlotte, who love to read--and sing.