Freedom in Congo Square

A few books manage to convey the stories of slavery, oppression and American history with just a spare rhyming text, the way Carole Boston Weatherford has done so well in Freedom in Congo Square.

The story of Congo Square where slaves in New Orleans would gather on Sunday afternoons to dance, make music and let the drum-beat sooth their hardship fascinated me.

It is the story of human nature and our desire to go on living and breath freedom even when caged in hardship.

The book is narrated over the seven days of the week, each day with its own chores as slaves look forward to that one precious Sunday afternoon when they could leave the master’s plantation hell and dive into paradise of semi freedom.

The illustrations by Gregory Christie perfectly accompany the lyrical text.

Created in a style of folk art, they also reminded me of Egyptian paintings depicting slaves performing their chores.

In the beginning, the figure are stiff as if oppressed. As Sunday comes along, they transform into bodies full of movement, as if that one Sunday afternoon breathed life in them. Skirts flow, legs swing and musical instruments take over the broom, hoe, bricks, mop and the master’s whip.

The book includes an informative forward and an author’s note for further understanding and class discussion.

Freedom in Congo Square cover

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