A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Lots of good information about the history and legacy of policies and ideas that have contributed to structural racism. Keywords are defined and explained throughout the text. Highlights individual artists and activists in the struggle for civil rights and social justice. An appendix includes an annotated guide to further reading and other resources for young readers.
We can only make progress if, as the author says, "we continue to grapple earnestly and openly with our past."
Positive Role Models
Highlights many inspiring stories of activism and advocacy, as well as uplifting profiles of artists and entertainers who have shaped our world and contributed in diverse ways to the Black freedom struggle, including author Toni Morrison, musician Jon Batiste, and actor Chadwick Boseman and activists Fannie Lou Hamer, Bayard Rustin, and John Lewis.
Each chapter begins with a story of a Black artist or entertainer, and the book is filled with examples of Black freedom fighters and allies from diverse backgrounds. And it notes the harmful impact of stereotypical representations of Black people in media. Importantly, the author frequently cites Black scholars and highlights their work in a detailed annotated bibliography at the end of the book.
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Violence & Scariness
Some brief but harrowing descriptions of lynchings, police violence, and other forms of racial and sexual violence during slavery, mentioning, "Women were routinely raped by the masters of plantations."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to Know that The Legacy of Jim Crow is a wide-ranging introduction to the history and persistence of structural racism -- and the activists and artists who have fought to dismantle it. Designed for middle grade readers, the book serves as a jumping off point for tweens to learn more about the United States' troubled past and the endurance of discriminatory policies and ideas in today's economy, culture, and criminal justice system. As the author explains in a content warning, some of the information in the book is "disturbing, detailing different types of trauma that generations of people have endured." There are reference to lynchings, police violence, and other racial and sexual violence: It mentions that during slavery, "Women were routinely raped by the masters of plantations." But the overall goal is to inspire kids to confront injustice and celebrate those who have sacrificed to build a more just future.
Is It Any Good?
As a compelling introduction to the concept of systemic racism and the painful history of racial oppression, this book succeeds with flying colors. Middle grade readers have likely heard about the history of slavery and Jim Crow in school, at home, and in other forms of media, but they may not have been exposed to the very real connections between past injustices and present inequities. Author Clarence A. Haynes does a good job of pairing the darker tragedies of this history with more uplifting profiles of Black creatives and civil rights leaders, offering students a model for how to grapple with tough issues without losing hope.
The broad range of topics the author tries to cover means that some of the details and nuances of complicated policies and events get lost or muddled, but The Legacy of Jim Crow includes good recommendations for further reading for interested students. Parents, students, and teachers shouldn't expect a detailed historical account of the Jim Crow era, but they can expect an honest, insightful, and intellectually stimulating overview of how the history of slavery and racial oppression, as Haynes says, "shaped the United States to this day."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.