Monday, November 5, 2018

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: A Review and Giveaway

Congratulations to Linda Phillips who won a copy of Back On Earth from last week's blog.

Alice Faye Duncan reached out to me through Twitter and asked if I was willing to review her two new picture books. Since I'm always interested in highlighting new books for you, of course I said yes! Here's the first one, MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP: The Sanitation Strike of 1968, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. (Boyds Mills Press, 2018)

This historical fiction picture book aimed at upper elementary or middle school readers, is based on the life of Memphis teacher, Dr. Almella Starks Umola. Her father was a pastor, community organizer, and strategist for the sanitation strike. Dr. Umola walked with her parents during the protests and heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech. 

Here's a great interview with Ms. Duncan that includes the many revisions that went into this story told from the fictional character, nine-year-old, Lorraine Jackson's POV. 


I remember Memphis. 
I remember the stinking sanitation strike. 
Alley cats, rats, and dogs rummaged through the trash.  
Black men marched through Memphis with protest signs raised high.  
I also marched in '68 with red ribbons in my hair.
That is the stark opening to Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop. Lorraine relates that the garbage trucks were old, rusty, and not well maintained. On a rainy, bleak day in Memphis, two black sanitation workers--working for $1.70 an hour--were crushed when a packer blade malfunctioned. 

"Slop dripped down their clothes."

Sanitation workers formed a labor union asking for better pay and safety on the job. Mayor Loeb refused their requests and one month later, the sanitation workers struck. 
In the morning and afternoon for sixty-five days, sanitation workers marched fourteen blocks through the streets of downtown Memphis...My daddy marched in that number. He marched for better pay. He marched for decent treatment. My daddy marched for me.
It was a difficult winter for young Lorraine, her parents, and the other strikers' families. But everyone was encouraged when they heard Martin Luther King, Jr. was coming to Memphis. 

"Dr. King said, 'All labor has dignity,'
Dr. King's voice was loud and stirring."
Dr. King organized a protest march and Lorraine, her mother, and other mothers and children went to the back of the line, while the sanitation workers marched in the front. Unfortunately, fifteen minutes into the march it was interrupted by rioters. The police responded quickly with tear gas and by beating innocent people. Her mother said, "Sometimes bad people mess things up for good people doing good."

That night, Mayor Loeb declared a state of emergency. "From my bedroom window, I saw soldiers in big green tanks creep slowly up the street. I waved to my friend Jan who sat in her window too."

"Nobody played outside that day. Fear locked us in our houses."

In April, Dr. King returned to Memphis but became sick and was unable to speak in person. His speech was broadcast to those who had gathered together at Mason Temple Church. "In the face of death threats, Dr. King spoke boldly. He encouraged Memphis strikers and strike supporters to march, boycott, and raise their voices for workers rights until victory was won."

That night, he was gunned down when a "bullet pierced the dreamer's neck." Afterwards, Lorraine Jackson wrote this poem and her mother hung it up on the crumbling walls of their rental home:

The King Is Dead

Not long ago,  
There lived a King. 
He did not live in a castle. 
He did not wear a crown. 
He did not rule a royal court 
Or ride in chariots.

The King marched in the streets. 
He lived to help the poor. 
He lived for peace and love. 
Hate killed the King.
The King is dead. 
What will the people do? 

The sanitation strike ended eight days later when President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in a labor official to negotiate a settlement. In the deal, the city recognized the labor union, the sanitation workers received 15 cents an hour more, and they were promised job promotions based on merit--not race.

"So much was won.
So much was lost.
Freedom is never free."
That hopeful yet sobering thought helps conclude this informative picture book. Ms. Duncan, as a librarian for the last 25 years in the Memphis public schools, included a timeline and annotated source list at the back of the book. I recommend this book as a curriculum resource for grades 4-7. There is a lot to learn within these pages and R. Gregory Christie's illustrations amplify the text.

Having recently listened to Eyes on the Prize, Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop helped me visualize this particular event on the civil rights timeline.


Ms. Duncan is giving away a personally autographed copy of this book to one fortunate winner. As she said in an email to me, "Readers deserve kindness and an extra 'oopmh'." Please leave me a comment by November 8 and your email address if you are new to my blog. If you share this post on social media and let me know what you did, I'll enter your name twice. 


Grannyjo said...

Wow! What a story! Can’t wait to read it
Jo Lynn

Theresa Milstein said...

This looks fantastic! I would love to share this with my students.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Jo Lynn and Theresa. Your names start the list!

Connie Porter Saunders said...

Carol, I think you know how much I love history and I lived through this period! Thanks for sharing and for the chance to win a copy. I have shared on FB, Twitter and Pinterest.

Jilanne Hoffmann said...

Wow! I'll recommend this one to my son's elementary school. It sounds fantastic! Thanks for featuring!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Connie (you're in twice) and Jillanne. Appreciate your support!

Jana Leah B said...

This is a story that definitely needs to be add to the classroom & library. Shared the post on Facebook. Thanks for the giveaway!

Carol Baldwin said...

YOu're in, Jana Leah. Thanks for sharing on FB too!

Young Authors Program said...

Thanks for sharing! I just found Alice on Twitter and started following.

Rosi said...

Wow. This sounds like a wonderful book. I will definitely check it out. I wonder a book recently, so will step aside for the drawing. Thanks for the post.

Carol Baldwin said...

You'll love this book, Dorothy! Thanks for commenting, Rosi.

Cat Michaels said...

Brilliant content. Awesome illustrations, too, Carol. And you found this great connection via Twitter! So impressed-:D. Thanks for sharing (No need to enter my name in the GA as I am a recent double winner on your blog)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Cat!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Brilliant book. Don't enter my name. I've won several times before.

Never Give Up

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for stopping by, JOan!

Kathleen said...

Carol, I'm so glad you featured this book! I had the pleasure of meeting Alice Faye at my first author panel ever-in Memphis, TN. She's as sweet as she is talented. She mentioned the book then and I couldn't wait to see the published copy(I have bought a couple for gifts). I didn't know about this story until she mentioned it and I love how she did a picture book of it. Such an important story that needed to be told.

Carol Baldwin said...

Very cool that you met Alice Faye! Thanks for sharing, Kathleen.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Wow! Beautiful storytelling! And tough but important story. Would love to win this! Congratulations, Alice Faye!

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