Let Freedom Sing
by Vanessa Newton
Let Freedom Sing is actually a book for preschoolers dealing with the Civil Rights movement in the USA from 1955 to the present. The song, This Little Light of Mine, is considered a Civil Rights song along with We Shall Overcome. This story interweaves the book pages with words from This Little Light of Mine and people singing. There are pictures of people letting their lights shine by standing up for rights and freedom. One of the people shining light on injustice included is Rosa Parks. The story says, “Rose Parks refused to move, She let her light shine.” Although the story words are few, the song lines repetitive, and the large hand-drawn colorful pictures bright, this book deals with a very serious subject. I am always in awe when authors convey truth and difficult subject matter in a child-friendly way even preschoolers can grasp. In the beginning of the book several songs and names of famous people are shared. The editors at Blue Apple Books continue by saying, “They are many others, unnamed and unsung, let their lights shine.”
This Little Light of Mine, by Harry Dixon Loes, captured the heart of the movement. It is a gospel children’s song and became an anthem of the time due to the work of Zilphia Horton and Fannie Lou Hamer. You may remember singing or teaching this song in Vacation Bible School, or both!
After reading the book, it would be possible to have a discussion of inequality and injustice. It helps that many people in the pictures are smiling, but some children will begin to realize what the book means. Young children probably do not need all the details of Jim Crow laws and everything that happened. However, they could participate in a classroom version of the 1963 March on Washington. See my free PDF for some signs that could be printed for the classroom to find along their way when marching. The children could line up and walk, getting to “roadblocks” and “open doors.” At the roadblocks, ask the children what the problem might be . . . people who aren’t nice, people who aren’t fair, or ideas from the story. When the class reaches each open door, ask the children what that might mean. . . people being nice, people helping, people being fair, and ideas from the story. If they are short on ideas, they could think about what they do and don’t like to happen at school such as being pushed or teased. Children have no end of comments about what they think is fair and not fair, and my students always had great ideas when we did this activity. The discussion should just go as far as the children take it and should relate to their own lives and situations. Older children could also benefit from this picture book as an introduction before viewing the actual historical pictures.