Review Detail

Middle Grade Non-Fiction 193
A history of prejudice in the U.S.
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
What worked:
This nonfiction book for young adults is full of facts and anecdotes chronicling the horrendous, frustrating, and terrifying history of Negroes in the United States. The common thread throughout the pages is The Green Book, a guide for Black people moving and traveling across the country. It shares businesses, towns, and locations that were friendly to Black Americans and warns them of places to avoid. Stories of enjoyable and frightening incidents from their lives are described and will evoke a wide range of emotions from readers. Although most of the businesses no longer exist, the stories in the book offer insight into the history of bigotry and prejudice that is still present today.
This book can be used as a reference source, even though it doesn’t read like one, as it’s divided into sections that are easy to navigate. There is an index at the back to locate topics quickly, and there’s a section that cites sources of information and quotations found on specific pages. There is an abundance of photographs, both color and black and white, mixed with pages from various publications. Photos of covers from The Green Book tie the chapters together, and excerpts from its pages display information available to Black readers. Chapters are organized by topics, not historical dates, and they include the origins of the book, driving while black, music, and traveling Route 66 across the country.
The long history of prejudice and Jim Crowe laws are explored using well-known and lesser-known events and people from the past. It describes how the Pullman Company was the largest private employer of Black Americans, as trains became a major form of transportation. Harlem was a center for entertainment and featured performers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and Benny Goodman. Tragically, pages and pictures depict the massacre and burning of a wealthy Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sundown towns, places where Blacks weren’t allowed to enter after dark, could be found all over the country, and the NAACP led a travel ban to Missouri in 2017 warning Blacks of potential violence. There are other stories of bigotry where Blacks are attacked just for being too successful.
What didn’t work as well:
This book is a young-adult adaptation, but it still has some pretty intense subject matter for young readers. There is a section describing an era of frequent hangings, and it includes a graphic photograph of a black man who had been hanged and shot. Some of the material may be upsetting, but it’s a part of America that’s not often shared and needs to be remembered.
The Final Verdict:
A history of prejudice in the U.S. Accomplishments and pleasant experiences of Black Americans temper the focus on unfair and violent attacks they were forced to endure. The stories are often disturbing to read, but they should be. I recommend this book for mature readers, as it’s probably not appropriate for elementary students.
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