Ellen’s Broom

Ellen's Broom

I am proud to say the first seven years of ML’s life she didn’t know names for various races.  People had lighter skin or darker skin.  We’d talk about the ladies I worked with a the library.  She’d ask, “Is Ms. Susan the one with the lighter skin or the darker skin?”

Now that she’s older, she’s learned about race.  Today, we talked about why school was out and the library was closed.  They’ve been talking about it at school; so she knew.  But I think it hit home when I told her if she was in elementary school sixty years ago, Ms. Shaw would not have been allowed to be her teacher.

Last year, we had the opportunity to attend an event at the library by author Kelly Starling Lyons.  She is the author of several picture books for children.  My favorite is Ellen’s Broom.  “This story of an African American wedding explains the history of the custom of jumping the broom, and the time when slaves had not been allowed to legally marry before the post-slavery Reconstruction era.”

The linoleum block pictures printed and painted by Daniel Minter are amazing.  He was awarded a 2013 Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustration for Ellen’s Broom.  ML loved them.  We did a web search to find out how he created the illustrations.  Then, discovered Kelly Starling Lyons has a Discussion and Craft Guide on her website.  We plan to make a block print using the instructions on page 6 of the guide.

Earlier today, ML was reading a book out loud to her stuffed animals.  I explained, “Slaves were not allowed to learn to read.  If they did, they were punished.”  She asked, “Would they be whipped?”  I didn’t sugarcoat it.  I said, “Yes, probably.”

Tonight, while reading Ellen’s Broom,  ML learned other injustices.  Marriage wasn’t protected by law for slaves.  Families were torn apart if a master decided to sell a husband or a wife… a mother or a father… a sister or a brother.  The slaves had no say in the matter.

The author signed our copy. “Mary Louise, Dare to Dream and Soar.”  I am thankful we live in a time when it doesn’t matter your race, children have the chance to dream and soar…  And where a child can reach age seven before knowing the names society gives people with darker skin and lighter skin.




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