In his first book for young readers, award-winning author, critic and scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. addresses "one of the most turbulent and intriguing times in the shaping of America." As Gates writes in his introduction, when he was growing up, his teachers did not "dig deeply into the reasons for slavery, or why racial segregation happened." In Dark Sky Rising, Gates helps children make sense of one of the least understood chapters in American history: the period of rebuilding the South following the Civil War.
Dark Sky Rising is packed with illustrations and engrossing facts about the people and places affected by Reconstruction. Gates--with prolific children's author Tonya Bolden--portrays the dizzying process the U.S. government and its citizens went through to reunite the South with the North and to "heal the sectional divide that slavery and secession had caused."
Beginning with President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, Gates works his way chronologically through the Compromise of 1877, which effectively ended Reconstruction, and beyond, to the "bleak and midnight days" when Jim Crow was the rule of the land. Hope is a constant theme, as African Americans persevered, "press[ing] on with their ambitions to attend college, get an education, own a home, or start a business," and "pushing back against the negative stereotypes of black people so pervasive during the Jim Crow era."
For young scholars of American history--those not daunted by large swaths of sometimes devastating facts--Dark Sky Rising is a treasure trove of knowledge. Readers who wonder about yesterday and care about tomorrow will be fascinated and moved by the story of African American people during the 1860s, 1870s and beyond. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor