Andrea Davis Pinkney's Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters is an amazing, entertaining, and educational journey back through time for both children and adults alike. It accurately depicts the changing face of America for all people. Pinkney uses a combination of oral stories and historical facts to re-create the lives of ten African American women civil rights activists, or, "freedom fighters. " The reader's traveling begins during the times of slavery. The travel path leads the reader through the signing of the emancipation proclamation, the peaceful demonstrations of the civil rights movement, and the Democratic Convention of 1968. The trail comes to a final stop glimpsing the politics of present day. By introducing these women's roles in history, Pinkney inspires the people of today to take a stand for what is right.
Pinkney is also a type of freedom fighter. The movement for civil and equal rights has long been a part of her personal life. She has authored and edited a number of educational and entertaining children's books, including Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra, Dear Benjamin Banneker, and Raven in a Dove House. Her choices for the ten African American women represent her own experience and knowledge in the ever-lasting fight for justice and equality.
Pinkney's choices of the ten African American women activists are quite diverse. Among the list of women are Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. However, she also includes many of the lesser-known freedom fighters, such as Shirley Chisholm, an inspirational politician, and Biddy Mason, a one-time slave with never ending generosity. By including the messages and demonstrations of a variety of African American women freedom fighters, Pinkney avoids the tedious repetition that accompanies popularity. In other words, she provides the reader with new information regarding unknown women. The reader is allowed to meet these courageous women who fought against oppression and injustice for the first time. By introducing these women's meaningful yet sometimes forgotten stories to the people of today, Pinkney promotes their legacy, continuing the fight for dignity and equality. Fannie Lou Hamer is one of the ten women who fought to change the unequal hardships of African Americans in the South. She gave a speech that questioned an America that would not allow the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to voice the unjust treatment of African Americans at the Democratic Party's Credential Committee. Her speech brought success when the party was given a seat on the Committee.
The educational message of each of the ten African American women activists is quite different from one another. This prevents repetitiveness, and keeps the style of the text upbeat and enjoyable. Despite the variety in themes however, there is one common, underlying goal of each story - INSPIRATION. From Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad and fight for liberty to Rosa Park's refusal to give up her seat, there is a subtle undertone that promotes and requires action. These women learned that justice comes from not only speaking, but doing. Their stories and successes encourage people of all ages to get up and fight against inequality. For instance, Ella Josephine Baker encouraged the young people of her era to become involved in peaceful protests, such as sit-ins. "These sit-ins were a boost to the struggle for equality" (Pinkney 58).
Not only are the messages of the freedom fighters informative, but they are also quite interesting and entertaining. As an adult, I am intrigued simply by the historical references in the different texts. Some of these references include talk of the abolitionists and suffragists in '''Sojourner Truth''''s time, or the fight against lynching by '''Ida B. Wells-Barnett'''. A child however, may need a little more than historical facts to be content. Pinkney provides this extra element of entertainment in her use of oral stories. The oral stories create a context to the life of the women freedom fighters providing more than simple historical dates and facts.
Pinkney uses descriptive language to make facts more entertaining. For example, while stating the fact that the freedom fighter Sojourner Truth's parents are the strong willed Baumfree and Mau-Mau Bett, Pinkney adds illustrative language: "Mau-Mau Bett had a special kind of strength. She was quiet strong, like a wind that keeps a boat on course. Belle's ([Sojourner Truth]'s) father, Baumfree, was backbone strong, like a tree that stands steady in a storm" (Pinkney 1). The combination of descriptive oral stories and history, along with the colorful illustrations of Stephen Alcorn, keep those of any age interested in this text.