What a great book to begin thinking in a stepped up pace about YA literature during Black History Month.
But how did I get to this book?
Sandra's first YA novel was Muckers. Through some stroke of good fortune I received a copy. I became a fan and Sandra proved herself to be quite the diligent researcher. This well researched novel about an underdog football team that had no chance to win anything, let alone a championship grabbed my attention and my heart. Shortly, after reading this book I ran into Rich and Sandra at an NCTE conference. (Who can remember which year and which city?) Since then we have been talking, presenting together at conferences, and keeping in touch.
When they provided me with an introduction to Jonathan Daniels, I was stunned. I should have known this story. I was around during the civil rights movement. I was a child of the 60s and 70s. I should have know this story. I should have known about this sacrifice. I loved my social studies classes, I paid attention to current events, I read newspaper. I grew up in an era of 3 tv stations and "arguably" more neutral presentation of the "news". At the same time, it seems, as we look back, that many, many worthy news stories were not covered or the events were brushed aside as too upsetting. (Of course, I might have rankled a few old timers with that comment, but wouldn't it be interesting to talk a look back at the coverage that some of the early protests and how they appeared in various news broadcasts and newspapers across the country?)
I wrote about Blood Brother in my blog and continued to follow what they were doing. Sandra has had great success with several children's literature books along the way. Still they both keep working together. A couple of years ago I followed up by writing a blog post on Bound by Ice. Latter, my colleague, Paul Binford, and I presented with Rich and Sandra about this book and their research process at the Kennesaw Children's and Young Adult Literature.
Race Against Time: The Untold Story of Scipio Jones and the Battle to Save Twelve Innocent Men
Jan. 2021. 144p. illus. Boyds Mills & Kane/Calkins Creek, $18.99 (9781629798165). Grades 7-10. 323.
REVIEW. First published November 1, 2020 (Booklist).
This is a compelling account of how Scipio Jones, a formerly enslaved man and self-educated lawyer, dedicated five years of his life and his personal fortune to trying to save innocent Black sharecroppers from imprisonment and death in 1919 Arkansas, during the height of the Jim Crow era. These men had dared unionizing, and retribution was swift: the largest mass lynching in American history, homes and churches burnt, innocent people condemned to the electric chair. Jones literally risked his life to defend the men, wrangling their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The judgement, Moore v. Dempsey, evoked the Fourteenth Amendment and was the first time African Americans won a Supreme Court decision, resulting in the release of 75 prisoners and 12 men on death row. The action takes place at breakneck speed, accompanied by ample background information, period photographs, and appearances by the nascent NAACP, journalist Ida Tarbell*, and a young Thurgood Marshall. An epilogue, informative author’s note, copious bibliography, and detailed chapter notes help round out this testimonial of an often-overlooked landmark event in the early history of civil rights.
— Kathleen McBroom
*one fix in the review: Ida Tarbell should be Ida B. Wells-Barnett
This wonderful book is quite short and easy to read, but do not let that fact lead you to believe it is simple. It is anything but. The book is densely packed with fact after fact and interesting narrative about Scipio Jones and the twelve men he saves from the electric chair.
Scipio Jones is an American patriot we should all know and teach to our children.
Read this book!
Share with your preservice teachers and your students.
In the meantime, I offer a few resources that will give you a small introduction to Scipio Jones and his work.