True stories and traditional songs shed light on a lesser known era in African-American history — the crucial decades between Emancipation and the start of the Civil Rights movement.
An International Reading Association Teachers' Choice
A Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice
A Chicago Public Library Best Book
"Rappaport and Evans reprise the passion and power that informed their 2002 collaboration, shining their spotlight on the progess and struggles of African Americans from 1863 to 1954. Vigorous prose is punctuated by poems, songs, and excerpts from primary sources, all of which illuminate the peculiar experiences of a people freed and still not free." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Back matter includes a list of important dates, an artist’s note, sources, resources for further information, and an index.
About the Author
Doreen Rappaport is the author of numerous books for young readers, including the acclaimed No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance — the first in what will be a trilogy of books illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Of Free at Last! Stories and Songs of Emancipation, she says, "This period in history was termed ‘The New Era’ by black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who hoped that the end of the Civil War marked the beginning of equality for black Americans. But this hope for equality quickly vanished with a series of ‘legal’ injustices, violence, and daily humiliations against black men, women, and children, marking this as one of the most shameful periods in American history. This book traces the courageous struggle of black Americans to re-create family life and economic independence in the face of overwhelming danger and uncertainty."
Shane W. Evans is the illustrator of several children’s books, including No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance by Doreen Rappaport. Of Free at Last!, he says, "As in No More!, I was faced with the challenge of making beautiful images out of images that are not always beautiful. There are dark moments in American history — our story — that need to be told, need to be known, and very importantly, need to be seen. It has been a welcome challenge and honor to tell these stories in pictures."
Read an Excerpt
THE STORY OF HARRIET POSTLE
Harriet Postle shifts her weight from side to side in bed. It is hard finding a comfortable sleeping position when you are seven months pregnant. She reaches over to touch her
husband, when she hears a thundering noise outside.
"Postle, we know you’re in there! You’d better come out!"
Harriet knows who is yelling — the Ku Klux Klan men wearing masks, tall pointed caps, and long white robes.
Her oldest son wakes and ducks under the mattress. The baby wakes and starts to fuss. Her husband darts out of bed, loosens three floorboards, and jumps into the hiding place they prepared months ago. She replaces the planks. She steps into her skirt to cover her nightshirt, but she is so flustered she gets entangled in the material.
"Postle! Open up this door! You can’t hide from us!"
Harriet scoops up the baby and plops down in a chair over the hiding place. She puts her hands over the baby’s ears, trying to block out the furious banging.
The door crashes in. Four men in dusty boots point pistols at the mattress, under which her son cowers.
"Leave my boy alone!" she shouts.
One man jerks her chair out from under her.
She falls to the floor, hugging her baby. The man stomps his foot on her huge stomach. "Where is your husband?"
"He’s not here!"
He drops a rope shaped like a noose over her neck. "Tell me where he is." Her son is screaming and sobbing at the same time. The baby wails. The man presses harder on her stomach. "Where is he?"
She does not answer. She will not betray her husband.
It seems like a miracle but the men finally leave. Her husband comes out of hiding. She cradles her children in her arms, but she cannot stop their crying.