Freedom in Congo Square

12 min. Dreamscape. 2017. $38.99. ISBN 9781520079066.
RedReviewStarGr 1–5—This Coretta Scott King and Caldecott Honor Book by Carole Boston Weatherford, with illustrations by R. Gregory Christie, really takes flight in the lively DVD version. Slaves from Africa and the West Indies toiled all week picking cotton, scrubbing clothes, and doing back-breaking labor for their owners with one thought in mind: "Slavery was no ways fair. Six more days to Congo Square." For, only on Sunday afternoons were they allowed to congregate and sell their homemade wares in New Orleans' Congo Square, where they were free to speak or sing in their native languages, dance, clap, and play indigenous instruments. The liberating atmosphere of joyful expression lifted their spirits and gave them hope as a community. Christie's childlike, abstract cut-paper bodies seem to leap off the screen, arms waving and tambourines shaking to the rhythmic drums, and the hypnotic music varies with each scene. As the countdown to Congo Square progresses, one senses the taste of freedom in the vocals and the intermingling of musical styles, which helped create the original American art form of jazz. J.D. Jackson's rich narration in verse weaves history, culture, music, and dance together into a vibrant cloth. The fascinating foreword and author's note provide historical context, and the subtitles make them accessible to students.
VERDICT Transcendent and inspiring, the program communicates an important facet of African American culture with panache and is a perfect pairing with the award-winning book. Ideal for school and public library settings.

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