“[T]he mountain of history books under which we all stand leans so heavily in the other direction-so tremblingly respectful of states and statesmen and so disrespectful, by inattention, to people's movements-that we need some counterforce to avoid being crushed into submission.
“All those histories of this country centered on the Founding Fathers and the Presidents weigh oppressively on the capacity of the ordinary citizen to act. They suggest that in times of crisis we must look to someone to save us: in the Revolutionary crisis, the Founding Fathers; in the slavery crisis, Lincoln; in the Depression, Roosevelt; in the Vietnam-Watergate crisis, Carter. And that between occasional crises everything is all right, and it is sufficient for us to be restored to that normal state. They teach us that the supreme act of citizenship is to choose among saviors, by going into a voting booth every four years to choose between two white and well-off Anglo-Saxon males of inoffensive personality and orthodox opinions.”
--Howard Zinn. A People’s History of the United States (1980)
“Oh the foes will rise
With sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real
The hour when the ship comes in”
-- sung by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963
Now it is more than forty-eight years later, and I can still remember it so well. No, not the actual evening news report about the August 28, 1963 March on Washington which I did, in fact, watch that day with great interest. No, what I remember so well is that the next week, when I started third grade at Fern Place School in Plainview, Long Island, my previous year's teacher told me all about how she and my former first grade teacher had boarded a bus and traveled to Washington D.C., and were actually standing there to hear the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech.
Some of you, like the young characters in Shane W. Evans's WE MARCH and like some of my own adolescent friends, grew up participating in marches alongside your parents. Such was certainly in no way my own childhood experience. Instead, it was thanks to the example of those two teachers, back when I was an eight year-old, and then thanks to the gentle urging of another teacher, this one in high school eight years later on, that I boarded a bus to go participate in my first protest march (which was to Washington, D.C on 4/24/71).
To some of us, maintaining a solid familiarity with one’s country’s state of affairs and then, when necessary, lifting one’s voice in support of what is right is the supreme act of citizenship. That what a child needs to know is not only how great Washington and Lincoln indeed were but, also, that our greatness, decade after decade, comes from the citizenry’s insistence upon change for the better – participative democracy -- is why Shane W. Evans’s WE MARCH is such a groundbreaking and memorable picture book.
WE MARCH is a tale told in but a few words about a young boy and girl who are awoken by their parents before sunrise on August 28, 1963 so that the family can participate in praying, making protest signs, taking a bus to Washington, D.C., singing, and marching “to justice, to freedom, to our dreams.”
As we see so well depicted through the story’s illustrations, and as is also emphasized by the author in his note at the conclusion of the book: “It takes people of all ages and cultural backgrounds to move a nation into a new era of freedom.”
As Evans continues, “In a sense, these marches pushed old ideas out of the way and moved new ideas forward. History shows that where there is change, there will often be resistance to change. However, these events demonstrate that through action and determination people have the power to overcome that resistance.”
As a suburban white kid in the northeast, I found myself an American through my joining with my fellow citizens to seek change. WE MARCH shows how one becomes part of something greater and part of our country’s story. 32 pages
Recommended by Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California, USA
Visit his blog at: Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com