Name of Book: The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Tim Ladwig
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Audience: Ages 6-9
Summary: This is a story of African American history in the United States from slavery to present day. The author highlights 13 historical figures and shares a bit about their story through the lens of the Beatitudes. The illustrations are specific to each story shared, portraying life-like portraits and accurate accounts of the stories of each person. The book begins with an overview of African American history and the sharing of the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and then carefully moves through the unique stories of the historical figures.
Literary elements at work in the story: This is a first person story told from the perspective of God. It is a poem that winds through 13 powerful stories, each one told with a corresponding line of the Beatitudes. The characters in the story are the 13 historical figures along with God as the narrator. This book is written as a free-flowing poem, and each story is set in the time and location of the person’s story being told. Twice in the book God is referred to as “he.”
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economic/ability make a difference to the story? The book is purely African American and focuses on the stories of African American ancestors throughout history and including present day. The stories are inclusive of genders, all socio-economic backgrounds and cultures as well. Given history, the book does portray white Americans in a negative and oppressive light. The story is most powerful in the way scripture is tied into the African American heritage, as introduced at the start of the book, and how the author has included God as a part of the stories as well.
Scripture: Amos 5:23-24
Theology: As God’s creation we have a responsibility to love and care for one another. Life in Christ commands us to be devoted to one another through care, honor and sincere love. We are to put the needs and care of others above the care of ourselves, as God did for us through the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. God demands justice and righteousness for all of God’s creation. God despises when we are complacent and ignore the needs of our Christian brothers and sisters.
Faith Talk Questions
- Do you know someone who has suffered because of their race? Have you suffered?
- How does God feel when people treat each other as less than God’s own children?
- When has God called you to step out in faith and go against what everyone else is doing?
- How can we care for all of God’s children when we see them being treated unfairly?
- Did you know that God was involved in all of these historical stories?
- How can we strengthen our faith and rely on God when we feel like we’re being mistreated?
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Katie Todd.