From the power duo who created We Troubled the Waters comes another memorable volume detailing the African American experience – this time, re-imagining the death-defying, life-saving journey from slavery to freedom along the Underground Railroad.
Combining powerful verse and richly textured paintings, Ntozake Shange and Rod Brown begin in the fields, where the horror of “that whip bouncing off somebody’s back” means a momentary “chance to get / right out of here” while the brutal overseer is otherwise engaged. In spite of attack dogs, hunger, and exhaustion ahead, the mere possibility of “ah may may be free” drives the dangerous journey onward.
Season after season, brave souls attempted freedom by “followin the north star,” relying on “this one good white man [who] got a clue for me,” choosing “death or freedom,” outrunning the slave trackers, mourning the “one of us [who] didn’t make it north,” and doing anything and everything possible to get to “freedom’s land” … until “finally ah am ridin through free air.”
From the legendary Sojourner Truth to “treacherous” slave hunters, to a wealthy abolitionist who may “look jus’ like mastah / oh but he aint,” to all the brave heroes – black and white – who never gave up on the promise of freedom regardless of personal cost: “Lawdy Lawdy we been blessed / Glory Hallelujah”!
As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, we must also remember the heroes whose names did not survive history, but whose selfless deeds helped ensure a better future. Freedom’s a-callin’ us all: listen carefully and ensure that the courageous, all-too-often anonymous struggle for equity and justice continues throughout the world …