Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round: Stories and Songs of the Civil Rights Movement
By Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Candlewick Press; $19.99
63 pp.; ISBN 978-0763619275
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
Recounting civil rights experiences and milestones between the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 and the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Doreen Rappaport and Shane W. Evans make history come to life, especially in regard to presenting the experiences of young people who lived and breathed history as it happened.
Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round is the final book in an award-winning trilogy (No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance and Free at Last! Stories and Songs of Emancipation) by the author and illustrator. Rappaport frames the people and events described within the fabric of a social and cultural history that stretches from the first slave ship rebellions to the present day, providing readers far too young to have any personal memory of the civil rights era with critical context.
Blending narrative with re-tellings based on the first-person narratives of Rosa Parks, Sheyann Webb, Mose Wright, Elizabeth Eckford, and Fannie Lou Hamer, among others, plus songs, and quotes from people who were there, the book covers major events in the civil rights movement and black history, such as the creation of the SCLC (the Southern Christian Leadership Conference), CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), and the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), the murder of Emmitt Till and the subsequent trial, the Montgomery bus boycott, lunch counter sit-ins, the desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas schools, voter registration efforts, freedom schools, and finally, the Voting Rights Bill of 1965. Rappaport concludes her book by affirming that the work of the civil rights era continues, listing figures from the book and their current projects and civil rights efforts. A detailed timeline of the period 1955-1965 plus extensive source notes, a bibliography, and reading list offer readers who want to know more a broad variety of leads for further learning.
Rappaport's retelling of history is far from dry; her reliance on the stories of young people -- children, teenagers, and young adults -- demonstrates that anyone can work to make a difference in the world around them. The importance of story and song are also conveyed through the inclusion of several bars of well-known civil rights era songs and their lyrics. No candy-coating here; one of Evans' images is that of a black man surrounded by white fists holding handguns; the narrative tells of police responding to protesters with clubs and dogs. Evans' oil paintings convey deep emotion and power, the perfect complement to the book's pull-no-punches prose.
A comprehensive introduction to the civil rights era of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round is a great choice for older elementary school aged readers, especially during the month of February, Black History Month. The strong narrative is engaging and for some kids may be a little shocking that these things really did happen. But Rappaport's focus on the efforts of young black Americans is inspiring, her reliance on the words of the people who were there to tell their own stories is powerful, and her faith in the idea that America truly can "live up to its promise of equality for all" is ever-evident, on every page and in every brushstroke of Evans' illustrations.
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