This book is dedicated to the loving memory of Rene Townsend, an artist and an educator who, by her life's example, constantly reminded us of our power to erase false divisions—between teaching and learning, between children and adults, between hearts and minds. A true artist and a true teacher, a live wire and a steady rock, she had a profound talent for sweetly challenging and warmly embracing at the same time. Everyone who knew her—students, teachers, parents, artists, friends—felt graced by her special attention, only to discover later that her spirit was so large that this personal, “exclusive” relationship included us all.
Not long before we lost her, the DuSable Museum of African American History honored Rene by commissioning her sculpture of the Amistad slave ship uprising. Rene chose to represent this historic struggle for freedom through an image of the children of the Amistad—children who survived captivity and grew up to make lives of their own choosing. The sculpture was cast directly from the bodies of students at Charles S. Brownell Elementary School. Their work with Rene connected them to their own history, their own freedom, and their own potential. It is in that spirit that this book is launched.