Children’s Book Review: Hammering for Freedom: The William Lewis Story

Multiculturalism Rocks! Children’s Book Review: Hammering for Freedom
Book Title: Hammering for Freedom: The William Lewis Story
Author: Rita Lorraine Hubbard
Illustrator: John Holyfield
Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Age Range: Grade 1 – 2

In celebration of Black History Month, I'm honored to review Hubbard's inspirational
picture book Hammering for Freedom: The William Lewis Story. 
William “Bill” Lewis was born a slave on a Tennessee plantation owned by Colonel James
Lewis. When Bill was just a young boy, Colonel Lewis put him to work as a blacksmith
rather than in the fields. 
 
As his owner, Colonel Lewis owned all the money Bill made from his blacksmith work but
he let Bill keep a few coins. Bill knew that if he saved up his money he could buy his
freedom. If he bought his freedom, then he could buy his family's freedom too.

“As Bill’s stack of coins grew, so did his hopes and dreams. Each coin he saved brought
him closer to purchasing his freedom. Once he was free, he could spend his money on
whatever he wanted. And what he wanted was to free his family.”
In 1837, Lewis opened his own blacksmith shop in Chattanooga, where he worked on 
his days off on the plantation to make more money for his freedom ($350). This alone
was a remarkable feat for a black man at this time. He then worked well into his fifties
to buy freedom for his entire family; including his wife, mother, aunt, sister and brothers.
 
“Twenty-six years after Bill’s arrival in Chattanooga, his plan was complete. He had
worked, sweated and prayed. Now he finally had his loving family around him, just like
when he was a boy. Only now they were all free.”
 
This is a beautiful book about breaking the chains of slavery; and, the endurance and
perseverance of black families.
 
Masterfully illustrated by John Holyfield, Hammering for Freedom: The William Lewis
Story is Hubbard’s debut picture book and also the recipient of 2012 Lee & Low Books’
New Voices Awards which led to publication.
Learn More:
Rita Lorraine Hubbard
John Holyfield
Lee & Low 2012 New Voices Awards Interview
 
Where to Buy:
Indiebound.org

Black History Month Continues… In Music

Hi everyone,

I hope this post finds you all well. 🙂
I hesitated before posting this, as it might be slightly controversial; but I decided to go ahead, and here’s why: As we celebrate Black History Month, of course we also have on our mind the Civil Rights Movement, the fight for basic human rights to be respected all over the world, the access to food, education, health care… The need for someone who is living an honest life and working hard, to be treated as a decent citizen.

A few weeks ago I was sent the following video, which was filmed in Paris during the 2008 riots, riots pertaining to what I described above, with French citizens protesting, among other issues, on behalf of undocumented workers.
I’m writing this post because I think it’s one of those topics some might rather avoid. One institution that did not shy away from the discussion is the Harvard Educational Review, volume 79 of Winter 2009, which focuses on the experience of undergraduate Latina/o students. I wrote a column in the 2010 Fall edition of The Multicultural Review about it; H.E.R. devotes a whole section to undocumented students, in their own voice.

The video reminded me that there are still people fighting for these basic needs, and many doing so through art. There was something about watching that woman sing in the midst of the riots with a smile and a message of peace… May peace also be found in all the parts of the world currently shaken by unrest.

French translations of the lyrics below. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.

Without papers i was born, without papers i shall pass away.

Let me tell you about the immmigrant
Let me tell you “undocumented”
Put aside all clichés, all prejudices
All speeches, demagogic,
They are ready for everything, it is poignant.

Without papers I was born, without papers I shall pass away

I did not come to break,
I did not come to burn
I did not come to steal
I did not come to beg

It’s always the same song,
Never positive, still negative,
I tell you that the malaise comes from there,
It is always the same that they show!!!!

Let me tell you about the immigrant
I want to tell you about disparity
A lot of people laud justice
But make off behind the vice
All these faces which we undress
And these messages that are wasted

Without papers I was born, without papers I shall go away

*The singer, Maddy, is a French citizen.*