CongoSquare

Some books just move you. They have that voice; that special “something” that strokes the ear, whispers to the heart, and makes you want to sing out loud. Author Carole Boston Weatherford’s stunning new picture book titled Freedom in Congo Square is one of those books.

Freedom in Congo Square uses rhyming couplets to paint a picture of the New Orleans slaves who performed grueling work throughout the week and faithfully counted down the days until they could enjoy a semblance of freedom in Congo Square.

“Mondays, there were hogs to slop,
mules to train, and logs to chop.
 

Slavery was no ways fair.
Six more days to Congo Square.”
Slaves were typically not allowed to congregate to share thoughts, news or fellowship, but the state of Louisiana passed a law that said Sundays were a day of rest for everyone–including slaves. This meant that slaves could gather in an open field (selected by the Mayor) that came to be known as Congo Square.

There was indeed freedom in Congo Square. Where African music was banned by most states, New Orleans slaves could play their own music, speak African languages, do African dances, and even use the instruments of their ancestors, like drums, gourds and the banza.

This is a lovely book that accentuates the exuberance of this rare freedom without minimizing the harshness and cruelty of the slave system. The meter lends a jubilant feel to an otherwise somber subject, and the vocabulary is concise and age appropriate and presents a complete picture of slavery in only a few words.

Artist R. Gregory Christie puts his heart into the jubilant illustrations in Congo Square. The rich and colorful cover sings “freedom” and the pages within simply burst with deep and lush colors representative of rich Mother Africa. The dark, elongated figures that strive within the pages as they count down to Sunday and freedom in Congo Square will move you in a way you never expected.

If there was ever a picture book to add to your Multicultural collection, this book by Coretta Scott King Honorees Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie is definitely the one. Perfect for citizenship classrooms, Black History Month, and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement. It may also be used as visual inspiration for art classrooms everywhere.

Cherish your freedom,
Rita Lorraine

This review will also appear on my page at http:// nyjournalofbooks.com/ reviewer/rita-lorraine-hubbard

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