Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

February is Black History Month and this year's theme is A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.  So it only seems appropriate that more and more children's books are being published introducing today's young readers to the often turbulent, sometimes violent struggles of African Americans for equality of the last century.  But it was also a century of change and one of those changes was the peaceful integration of Huntsville, Alabama.

As Hester Bass shows in her new book Seeds of Freedom, the 1960s in Huntsville, Alabama was a study in contrasts - as the "Space Center of the Universe," great scientific minds working on America's space program, but an invisible, uncrossable line dividing Huntsville into black and white existed.

However, things were happening all over the country and seeds of freedom were being planted by leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, college students who were being trained in non-violence and staging sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, and demonstrators carrying protest signs.  By Easter 1962, those seeds of freedom had been planted in Huntsville, Alabama by its African American citizens who decided it was time for those seeds to grow there as well.

Bass tells the story of the peaceful integration of Huntsville event by event, month by month beginning with Easter 1962, when no African Americans bought their traditional new clothes for the holiday, choosing to wear blue jeans instead, an economic measure strongly felt by the white store owners.  More peaceful demonstrations followed.  Slowly, but peacefully, integration began to happen in Huntsville.   But it took a lawsuit brought by four families to finally integrate the schools.  The peaceful nature of the events in Huntsville, however, sets it apart from so many other towns and cities in the south where demonstrators were confronted by armed police, dogs and fire hoses.

In this picture book for older readers, Bass has presented the story of Huntsville in clear, concise yet lyrical language.  She not only describes the events in Huntsville, but gives some history of the Civil Rights movement and its leader Dr. King, as well as what was happening elsewhere.

Young readers will certainly find Seeds of Freedom an inspirational story, the more so because it is a true story.  And, it will definitely resonate with today's readers given some recent events in the news that sometimes make us feel that we are slipping back to those days of racial divide.  Hopefully, it will be the example of courage and sacrifice in the face of resistance that readers will carry away with them.

Complimenting and enhancing Seeds of Freedom are the watercolor paintings of E. B. White.  White always manages to catch just the right expression of the faces of the individual people he paints, and just as beautifully switches to an impressionist style for depicting crowds, such as those demonstrators who were met with firehouses elsewhere in Alabama.  Either way, White's illustrations are sure to move the reader.

Be sure to Author's Note at the end of the book, explaining why she decided to write Seeds of Freedom and giving some important background information.  Bass also includes a Selected Bibliography for further exploration.

Seeds of Freedom is an excellent and welcomed addition to the ever increasing body of literature on the Civil Rights Movement.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Candlewick Press

February is Black History Month

This is book 2 of my 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy


  1. I enjoyed all the details of your review, know I need to get and read this book! Thanks!

  2. I reviewed this book this week too, although yours is MUCH more thorough. I really liked it and thought E.B. Lewis's illustrations were beautiful.

  3. Alex, E.B. Lewis's work is amazing (and he's a nice guy, too!). This cover draws me right in---the idea of sending notes by balloon. I need to find this book and check it out :)


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