Today marks the 65th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and I can’t think of a better title to share for Flashback Friday than The Teachers March: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace. Originally released in September 2020, this picture book shares the story of Reverend F. D. Reese and the 1965 Selma Teachers’ March.
Title: The Teachers March: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History
Author: Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace
Illustrator: Charly Palmer
Publisher: Calkin’s Creek
Published: September 29, 2020
Format: Picture Book
Reverend F. D. Reese was a science teacher at R. B. Hudson High School who encouraged 104 Selma, Alabama teachers to march from the school to the county courthouse to demand the right to register to vote. The Teachers March follows his journey, along with the other teachers who were often seen as “respectable” members of society who had “better sense than to march”. The teachers were afraid they would lose their jobs or be arrested if they spoke up, but with the help of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Reverend F. D. Reese convinced the teachers that the vote was worth fighting for and organized the Teachers March of 1965.
The teachers of R. B. Hudson High School were not granted the right to register to vote on that January day in 1965, but they did inspire others to march, including beauticians, barbers, undertakers, and even their own students. That summer, with Selma jails filled with thousands of citizens who demanded the right to vote, including many schoolchildren, the Voting Rights Act was passed.
Though The Voting Rights Act was passed back in 1965, voting rights are still under attack today. Since 2013, The US has seen a rise in voter suppression laws, including discriminatory voter ID requirements, polling place closures, blocking access to voting by mail, and even a law that prohibits providing water to voters waiting in line. It is imperative to share the stories of how freedoms were won with children today so they can understand what is at stake. When my son learns of the voter suppression that is taking place in this country, I want him to know that it is a direct affront to the thousands of men and women who put their jobs, bodies, and lives on the line to stand up for “freedom and justice for all”. The Teachers March is a wonderful resource to help him make that connection.
Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace carefully detail the events of the march, and do not omit the “uglier” truths of injustice faced by Black citizens in the sixties. They highlight the fact that teachers taught their students the Constitution every day, though they were not granted the freedoms promised in it. They do not shy away from the rage, hatred, and violence faced by the protestors who were demanding equality.
The backmatter provides both an Authors’ note and Illustrator’s Note. The Authors’ note provides further detail on several teachers who participated in the March, highlighting their lives after the march. I especially appreciated the Illustrator’s Note from Charly Palmer. In this note, he shares that he hired a photographer to restage images from the Teachers March, which he used as his source material. I found the idea so creative, and it clearly worked! The illustrations instantly take readers to that day in 1965, proving an authentic atmosphere for the story.
I am ashamed to admit that I never heard of Reverend F. D. Reese until I read The Teachers March. As a child in an Alabama public school, I was required to take Alabama History in the fourth grade. Regretfully, I did not learn about the Teachers March of 1965 or Reverend Reese back then. This is a prime example of the need to explore an accurate and inclusive history lesson in our classrooms today. The Teachers March fills a gap left in many textbooks, and is an absolute must have for the classroom.
You can find a copy of The Teachers March wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Boyds Mills & Kane for providing me with a review copy of this amazing book. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to share it with the children in my life, ensuring they know more about the history of the state they live in than I did at their age.
About The Authors:
Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace are award-winning writers of nonfiction titles including First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great and Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights, which won the International Literacy Association’s Social Justice Award and a YALSA Award nomination for Excellence in Nonfiction. Sandra’s picture-book biography Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery is the NCTE 2019 Orbis Pictus winner for Outstanding Nonfiction. You can find them online at sandraneilwallace.com and richwallacebooks.com.
About The Illustrator:
Charly Palmer is an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator. He also teaches design, illustration, and painting, most recently at Spelman College. His two recent picture books are There’s a Dragon in My Closet and Mama Africa, which won the 2018 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. Please visit Charly online at www.charlypalmer.com.