“I grew up in a house full of music—my father was a musical arranger, my mother was a singer, and I was a budding pianist who began studying at the age of six,” recalls author Doreen Rappaport. Her love for music propelled her through Performing Arts High School in New York City, a degree in music from Brandeis University, more music study in France, and teaching and writing about music in the 1960s. It was during that decade, the author says, that “the power and courage of the civil rights movement brought my interest to activism and telling stories—stories that had never been told before, stories I had never heard.”
All of these elements—activism, stories, and music—come together in No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance, a riveting anthology compiled by Doreen Rappaport and stirringly illustrated by Shane W. Evans. “As a child, from my father I learned about and treasured the ‘Negro’ spirituals, as they were called in those days,” the author says. “I valued them as unique music created by enslaved Africans and as a defiant way of unifying slaves and protecting them from the oppressive white world. Thinking about using this music in No More! led me to read autobiographies, letters, interviews, and poems written by black Americans. Gradually the shape of the book emerged as an interweaving of many different voices.” The book, which covers a period ranging from the beginnings of slavery in the American colonies to the Emancipation, is the first in a three-part series about the black experience in America.
Free At Last! Stories and Songs of Emancipation, the second book in the trilogy, fuses vignettes, spirituals, work songs, blues lyrics, poems, narratives, and Shane W. Evans’s masterful artwork into a compelling account of the experience of black Americans in the South from the Emancipation Proclamation through the dawn of the ivil rights era. Despite the optimistic title, this lesser-known era is “one of the most shameful periods in American history,” says Doreen Rappaport. “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.”
Doreen Rappaport has written many books of fiction and nonfiction for young readers, specializing in thoroughly researched multicultural history, historical fiction, retellings of folktales and myths, and stories of those she calls the “not-yet-celebrated.” Among her recent books is Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Bryan Collier, which received a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor Award for illustration. Doreen Rappaport divides her time between New York City and a rural village in upstate New York.