To commemorate Black History Month, I'd like to introduce you to two brave black women you've never heard of--Lilly Ann Granderson and Sarah E. Goode.
In Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and her Secret School, author Janet Halfmann tells Granderson's story in this picture book biography from the time Lilly was an enslaved child working in the master's house. She played school with the master's children when adults were not watching. She knew that she needed to hide her learning, but her desire to learn was unquenchable. Illustrations by London Ladd show Lilly teaching reading and writing to other enslaved children. Soon people of all ages attended her lessons. All of them knew the risks they faced if caught, but they continued. Lilly's students went on to teach others, creating a ripple of education. Halfmann makes clear the difficulties and risks Lilly took to create a good life for her family and help others learn. The difference between being enslaved and free before, during, and after the Civil War is stated directly. The Afterword fills in the historical record, and selected references show readers Halfmann's scholarship and places where they can find more information.
Vivian Kirkfield's picture book biography of Sarah E. Goode, Sweet Dreams, Sarah, shows a determined young black woman in pursuit of a dream. In lyrical language, Kirkfield describes Sarah's childhood as a slave and her dreams for something better: "A husband, A family, A job that she loved." Kirkfield continues to tell how Sarah achieved all three by moving to Chicago after emancipation, marrying Archibald Goode, starting a family, and opening her own furniture store. That might have been enough, but Sarah was skilled with people and with woodworking tools. She found a need--to make room for more beds in small apartments--and set to work. The furniture in her story wouldn't work: "Too boxy! Too bulky! Too big!" But she had an idea that led to Sarah Goode being the first black woman to hold a patent. Kirkfield shows Sarah's failed attempts at creating a cabinet bed (a forerunner of the Murphy bed) and the denial of her first patent application. After those trials, her patent acceptance and sale of her cabinet beds were a sweet dream come true. The illustrations by Chris Ewald show Sarah in action and emotion, helping readers to feel the depth of her dreams and understand the difficulties of her challenges.The back matter fills in more of the story with an Author's Note, an explanation of what a patent is, and a timeline of Sarah's life.
Both books are good for the older picture book reader through adults because of their empowering facts and emphasis on persistence in pursuing one's dreams.
And stay tuned! Next week, I get to host David L. Harrison and tell you about his forthcoming book as part of his book launch blog tour!