Let Freedom Sing

Written & Illustrated by: Vanessa Brantley Newton

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: History, Modern Black Freedom Struggle, Activism, Music, Black Culture & Identity, Own Voices. 

Summary: 

The majority of this book’s words are lyrics to the song “This Little Light of Mine” which was an integral part to the Civil Rights Movement, also known as the Modern Black Freedom Struggle.  Singing songs, particularly this one, was at the heart of the movement and there were lots of verses written and sung depending on what form of protest a person was engaging in.  At the front of the book is a list of these verses and the places they would have been sung, like sitting at lunch counters, being in jail, and marching.

Newton adapts the lyrics and embeds them within details about specific acts of Black resistance, naming the individuals that were integral to the event’s success (such as naming the Little Rock Nine).  The beautiful illustrations show the difference between life for white children and Black children with schools and drinking fountains in stunning visual detail.  The book ends with Barack Obama giving a speech at the Washington Monument after he was elected President.

This is a gorgeous story, and artistically told, showing readers the strength and courage that Black protestors had during these events.  Newton has created a beautiful tribute to the brave voices that sang through the Modern Black Freedom Struggle of the 1950’s and 60’s.

About the Author & Illustrator:

Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. She was part of a diverse, tight-knit community and learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment at early age.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, Vanessa includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants allchildren to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.

​Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art.

The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.

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