Friday, October 23, 2020

One Real American and Thurgood Marshall

Bruchac, Joseph. One Real American: The Life of Ely S. Parker, Seneca Sachem and Civil War General
October 27th 2020 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ely Parker was born in 1928, a time when many Tonawanda Senecas in New York state were adopting many European conventions, in dress, homes, and sometimes even religion, in the way they lived. Unfortunately, they also had to deal with whites wanting to take their land. Having learned Latin, Greek and other topics taught during this time period, Parker had few academic problems when he attended the Cayuga Academy, although his classmates were often abusive. His education helped him assist a delegation of Tonawanda chiefs on a trip to Washington, D.C. to discuss government settlements that they wished to refuse. He impressed the president and other officials, and even met with John Ross, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. He had been considering a career in law, but a friend convinced him that going into engineering would be a better path, and Parker eventually became the resident engineer for New York State Canals. He was also chosen as the "grand sachem" of the Iroquois Confederacy in 1851. While his education and insistence on fashionable frock coats gained him a lot of ground with the white government officials, his knowledge of and respect for his Native culture helped him in the ranks of the Six Nations. When the Civil War started, he tried to enlist, but was turned away. In 1863, John E. Smith asked that Parker be appointed to his staff, and this military service culminated in Parker being the highest ranking Native American in the Union Army, and the man who wrote out the official copy of Lee's surrender at Appomattox. After the war, Parker married Minnie Orton Sackett, a white woman, and struggled to find jobs. He remained active in Native affairs, and passed away in 1895.
Strengths: I had never heard of Parker, and I also have never read anything that talked about communities of Native Americans during this time period. This was a fascinating look at an individual who was very influential at a time when Native Americans were often treated poorly. Parker was able to forge an unusual path and go between the Native and white worlds, and be trusted in both. His involvement in the Civil War will definitely interest a lot of readers.
Weaknesses: I was reading this as an E ARC, so it was hard to determine the formatting. I will have to take a look at the finished copy, but this seemed to be arranged more like a fiction book than a modern nonfiction book with lots of pictures and color. While there were pictures, this lacked sidebars and additional information.
What I really think: This is definitely a great biography to have in a middle school or high school collection. Bruchac always does a great job at making his books readable and also packed full of information.

50159807. sx318 sy475Kanefield, Teri. Thurgood Marshall (The Making of America #6)
April 21st 2020 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Born in 1908, Thurgood Marshall experienced an array of institutionalized racial injustices in his New York and Baltimore homes, even though his parents were outspoken about race, and his mother strongly supported the NAACP. His father encouraged young Marshall's interest in current events and the law, taking him to hear cases being tried at court. Initially wanting to study to be a dentist because there was a high demand and his mother thought it was a good idea, Marshall enrolled at Lincoln University. After participating on the debate team, he returned to his previous dream of becoming a lawyer. At the time, few law schools accepted Black students, and those that did were too expensive. He ended up studying at Howard Law School,commuting to D.C. from Baltimore by train. After graduation, during the height of the Great Depression, he set up his own law office, where he took many cases on a pro bono basis. In 1935, Marshall took the case of donald Murray, a Black man who wanted to attend law school at the University of Maryland but was told that they did not accept Black students. Marshall won the case, and started on his illustrious career as a Civil Rights attorney, even though he received threatening letters, some from the Ku Klux Klan. He was involved in many school related cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. In 1967, President Johnson appointed him to the Supreme Court, where he served until 1991. He died in 1992.

Kanefield does a great job at telling the story of Marshall's life, including the state of the world around him. We get just enough background information about his family, his early school experiences, and the state of Black American rights during the early part of the 1900s. Accompanying photographs and primary source documents support the text.

Like other books in this series (including Abraham Lincoln and Susan B. Anthony), the book is nicely formatted for the elementary and middle school reader. At just over 200 pages, the text is comfortably readable, the pages well laid out, and the bibliography and selection of Marshall's writing helpful for providing additional information.

Although Kanefield is not Black, the research in this book is solid, and the thread of the challenges Marshall faced throughout his career is well presented. Thurgood Marshall is an excellent book to hand to students who are seeking information not only about individuals, but about the details of their lives during particular periods of history.

Ms. Yingling

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