Flashback Friday – The Teachers March: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History

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.

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Nonfiction November Inspired by a Board Book

A few weeks ago, my mother stopped by for a visit and surprised us with a board book. My mom obviously knows about my passion for building an inclusive library for my son, and likes to contribute her own picks occasionally, which I am forever grateful for. This particular book was called Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a BIG Difference by David Heredia. It’s a great nonfiction selection for children highlighting lots of different POC (People of Color) who changed the world. My only real complaint about this book is that every person highlighted only has one sentence dedicated to their accomplishments. I was left wanting so much more!

So in honor of Nonfiction November, I decided to take matters into my own hands and locate children’s biographies for heroes featured in the book. These biographies are all still a bit over Sully’s head, but I definitely plan on picking them up so we can learn more about each hero’s accomplishments as he gets older.

If you’re looking to add a bit of Nonfiction to your little readers library you can pick these titles up at my Bookshop Affiliate Shop. Please know that Mutually Inclusive does receive a small commission on purchases made through this link (and the links for each title on this post). This commission allows me to purchase more books to review and share with you.

Ernie Barnes

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace, Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Born in the Jim Crow era in Durham, North Carolina, Ernest Smalls grew up to be both a professional football player and an artist. This picture book shares with us both his struggles and his successes throughout his life. I love that this story tells children they don’t have to choose between arts and sports. They can absolutely enjoy and be successful at both!

Henry “Box” Brown

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Henry’s Freedom Box tells the story of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who escaped slavery in a very creative way. Henry was torn from his mother at a young age. He grew up to be married and started a family of his own, only to have them sold away from him. In the end, Henry comes up with a plan to mail himself to freedom, earning him the nickname Henry “Box” Brown.

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People by S. D. Nelson

S.D Nelson, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, brings us the story of Sitting Bull. Told through Sitting Bull’s voice, this book focuses on the injustices faced by the Lakota tribes throughout our nation’s history. Just a note: this one is recommended for a slightly older audience (middle grade) as the illustrations do depict death and violence.

Joseph Boulogne Chevalier De Saint George

Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George by Lesa Cline Ransome Illustrated by James Ransome

This book chronicles Joseph Boulogne’s life from a plantation in West Indies to studying music in Paris, and his rise to fame in Europe. Joseph overcomes great adversity and finds success as the first black composer. A great story for any music lover, and a great reminder that the classical music world isn’t as white as we’re led to believe.

Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm https://bookshop.org/a/15989/9780803730892is a Verb by Veronica Chambers, Illustrated by Rachelle Baker

Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress. This picture book touches on Shirley’s early life, but it truly highlights her many accomplishments, including creating the Head Start and WIC programs, and her work to help create the Congressional Black Caucus. This is a fantastic pick to discuss determination, and speaking up for yourself. I also LOVE the illustrations in this one. They really gave Shirley a personality throughout the book.

Bessie Coleman

Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger Illustrated by Teresa Flavin

This is the picture book biography of Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman and Native American woman to receive a pilot’s license, This book chronicles the famous aviatrix’s life from her childhood in Texas all the way to her death in Jacksonville, Florida. My only complaint was that I felt the book glossed over Bessie’s Native American heritage. Her father’s “Indian” heritage is mentioned, but only in passing.

Fannie Lou Hamer

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

This stunning biography is told through a collection of poems. Written from Fannie Lou Hamer’s perspective, these poems detail her journey from a sharecropper’s daughter in Sunflower County, Mississippi to a renowned civil rights activist. This book does not shy away from the events of the Civil Rights Movement, but details the injustices that freedom fighters faced during these times. Note: There is a racial slur used in this book.

Maya Lin

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

This is a lovely little biography of Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. This one isn’t too heavy on history or Maya’s childhood, but reads as an inspiring story for any budding little artists or architects.

Dr. Ronald McNair

Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden, Illustrated by Don Tate

Dr. Ronald McNair was a Black NASA astronaut and physicist who lost his life in the Challenger mission. This picture book relates a fictionalized version of a real-life event from Dr. McNair’s childhood in South Carolina. In this book, Ron wants to check books out from the library, which is only allowed for white children. This is a great book to engage children in conversations about civil disobedience, and help them understand that unjust “rules” can and should be challenged.

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was a Black Puerto Rican historian, collector, and writer who was determined to discover and share Black history and achievements. This book contains a collection of 20 poems detailing his quest for knowledge that eventually led to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and his lifelong fight against the whitewashing of history, but it also relates much of the Black history he discovered along the way.

Sonia Sotamayor

Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor, Illustrated by Lulu Delacre

Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic and Latina member of the Supreme Court of The United States. This autobiography details her childhood, specifically highlighting her love of reading. Justice Sotomayor shares how her love of reading impacted her life, and lead her to her career as a lawyer, judge, and Supreme Court Justice.

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac, Illustrated by S. D. Nelson

Jim Thorpe was an accomplished athlete and the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal. This biographic picture book discusses his childhood on the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation , specifically focusing on how his education influenced his path to his athletic achievements. A great reminder for young readers of the importance of education.

I wish I could share biographies for all 50 heroes mentioned in Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a BIG Difference but unfortunately, I couldn’t find one for everyone. There are a few others I hope to share another day, along with some other great biographies I found featuring heroes not mentioned in David Heredia’s collection. I hope you found one or two books to add to your readers’ shelves.

Have you read any of these biographies? Have you read other biographies about any of the heroes in Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a BIG Difference? Be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!