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The Story of a Song

by Debbie Levy ; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Pub Date: Dec. 17th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4231-1954-8
Publisher: Disney-Jump at the Sun

An inviting introduction to a spirited and spiritual anthem.

Levy traces the evolution of this iconic song from its beginnings as black church music during slavery through its emergence as a labor protest song in the 1940s to its stirring place of pride in the civil rights movement at lunch counters, on picket lines and at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington. President Lyndon Johnson invoked its words prior to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. So powerful were the music and words that they later traveled to East Germany, South Africa, India and Czechoslovakia. It is still being sung today, as it was on the day that Barak Obama was elected. The free-verse text is informative and engaging. Equally effective is the mixed-media and collage design from Brantley-Newton, which depicts men, women and children holding hands and raising their many voices as one. Their multihued faces and colorful attire stand out against a white background decorated with soft, marbled swirls of color. Verses of the song, presented in bold type, provide visual appeal and should encourage children to listen to the many recordings available and sing along.

A slice of musical Americana celebrating community protest against injustice.

(timeline, sources, recommended Web recordings, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-10)