This poetic tale chronicles the presence and contributions of African American midwives.
A five-page historical introduction explains a few specific details of the role of the midwife, including noting their contributions dating back to the time of slavery; this is accompanied by archival, black-and-white photographs. Seven poems follow, celebrating midwives through history. First, Greenfield describes the trans-Atlantic slave journey and how, in America, the elder women taught the younger girls the knowledge and skill of assisting in childbirth, or “catching the babies.” The poem “After Emancipation, 1863” speaks to the special exuberance expressed by parents whose children were at last born free from slavery: The midwife “felt the / excitement circling through / the room. / …it was more than / the joy of a new baby coming.” In “The Early 1900s,” the midwife now had more than her hands for the job; she had a stethoscope, scales, and, most likely, her husband, who would transport her via horse and buggy to deliver babies. The poems are accompanied by colorful, symbolic artwork by Minter. One striking image depicts five women connected by sinuous, draping robes, heads bowed in concentration, “gentle, loving” hands at the ends of muscular arms “guid[ing babies] into the world.” Greenfield also includes black-and-white photographs of her childhood self, a nod to “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” the midwife who “caught” her in 1929.
Rites of passage incandescently brought to light. (Picture book/poetry. 7-12)