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Strange Fruit. Volume 1

Saturday, February 28th, 2015


Title: Strange Fruit. Volume 1, Uncelebrated Narratives From Black History
Author: Joel Christian Gill
Illustrator: Joel Christian Gill
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Publication Date: June 3, 2014

Strange Fruit, Volume I is a collection of short stories about uncelebrated African American heroes. They’re stories that readers won’t often find in the typical history books, but each story is certainly worthy. Among the stories are: Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped from slavery by mailing himself to Philadelphia; Theophilus Thompson, first black chess master; and Bass Reeves, deputy US Marshall of the Old West.

This graphic novel is definitely a unique gem. It has something for people of every age, but will make an excellent teaching tool for a younger audience. The author doesn’t shy away from the heavy topics of racism, but he goes about presenting them in ways that make this a safe space for discussion. Racial epithets are represented by images in place of the words and the hostility of Jim Crow laws are brought to life in the form of actual crows instead of an angry mob. There is much to be read into the illustrations that Gill has created. Also be sure to keep an eye out for a Harry Potter reference! The end includes a “Did You Know” section with more facts about each story as well as a bibliography that lists sources for each individual story. The one downside is that this collection is lacking female heroes. Hopefully a Volume II with rectify this. Overall, definitely a must have for libraries and a book for teachers to strongly consider using during Black History Month lessons. While one book can’t fill in the voices that have been mostly overlooked by history, this one is a great start and is sure to inspire readers to believe that they too are capable of great things.

Also consider pairing with this Strange Fruit Lyric Analyzing lesson for grade 6-12, as this Billie Holiday song is discussed in the graphic novel’s Foreword.

Black History Month

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

February is right around the corner, which brings with it Black History Month. In celebration be sure to check out these graphic novel titles!


March Book One by John Lewis:

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights (including his key roles in the historic 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March), meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. In March, a true American icon teams up with one of America’s most acclaimed graphic novelists. Together, they bring to life one of our nation’s most historic moments, a period both shameful and inspiring, and a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

  

March Book Two by John Lewis:

Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, continues his award-winning graphic novel trilogy with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, inspired by a 1950s comic book that helped prepare his own generation to join the struggle. Now, March brings the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world. After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence - but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before. Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.


Strange Fruit. Volume 1, Uncelebrated Narratives From Black History by Joel Christian Gill:

Strange Fruit, Volume I is a collection of stories from African American history that exemplifies success in the face of great adversity. This unique graphic anthology offers historical and cultural commentary on nine uncelebrated heroes whose stories are not often found in history books. Among the stories included are: Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped from slavery by mailing himself to Philadelphia; Alexander Crummel and the Noyes Academy, the first integrated school in America, established in the 1830s; Marshall “Major” Taylor, a.k.a. the Black Cyclone, the first black champion in any sport; and Bass Reeves, the most successful lawman in the Old West. Written and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill, the diverse art beautifully captures the spirit of each remarkable individual and opens a window into an important part of American history. 


Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks:

From bestselling author Max Brooks, the riveting story of the highly decorated, barrier-breaking, historic black regiment–the Harlem Hellfighters. In 1919, the 369th infantry regiment marched home triumphantly from World War I. They had spent more time in combat than any other American unit, never losing a foot of ground to the enemy, or a man to capture, and winning countless decorations. Though they returned as heroes, this African American unit faced tremendous discrimination, even from their own government. The Harlem Hellfighters, as the Germans called them, fought courageously on–and off–the battlefield to make Europe, and America, safe for democracy.