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Showing posts with label Greenwillow Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greenwillow Books. Show all posts

1.12.2011

Boycott Blues (2008)



Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Colored inks on clayboard

Text set in Adobe Caslon


I read through this book twice before seeing the author's note at the end in which she explains the origins of the term "Jim Crow." "For this story," Andrea Pinkney writes, "I have taken the liberty of depicting Jim Crow as a menacing bird to give characterization to segregation's ugly reality."

Wait a minute... had I missed something? Had I overlooked such stark symbolism? I flipped back to the beginning. Sure enough - on only the second illustration in - the words, "It was December 1, 1955, when the blues came to call - the same day Jim Crow flew in waving his bony wings," and her husband has unevenly sketched the White House with a bus puttering along before it, and above the White House is a large, menacing smudge which resembles an exploding storm cloud. And yes, if I stare at it long enough, Rorschach-style, it does seem the smudge contains a black beak, crazed wings, flapping curiously... If I blink, it reverts to just an inky mess, a black hole where the sun ought to be.

For the remainder of the pages, we see only its black tendrils about the outskirts of the images. It's there, hovering above the fateful bus that Rosa Parks boarded at the end of her workday.

Whenever Jim Crow got to laying down the letter of the law, to stating the state of segregation, he did it with his peck, peck, peck. And on this day, Jim Crow's peck was a duet.

The bus driver stands with his fingers pointing toward the rear, the driver's seat is engulfed in the stuff, swirling about like the Venom suit in SpiderMan, using him as its conduit. But, "even with Jim Crow's peck, peck, peck sounding like rust on a bedspring, Rosa stayed seated."

When Rosa leaves the bus, escorted by two police officers, the inkblot encompassing all of the bus.

The boycott begins. For one year, African-Americans - followed by white - refused to ride, crippling a major aspect of the American infrastructure across the nation.

Then came the miracle. The Supreme Court invited Jim Crow in for a visit, and waved a gavel on his bony wings. The judge in the courthouse said, "Jim, you're all wrong."

The black visage lifts, the colors of the page are able to shine through. "Bony wings, adieu. Peck, peck, peck, later for you. Bye-bye, boycott blues."
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