Academic journal article Language Arts

Ellington Was Not a Street

Academic journal article Language Arts

Ellington Was Not a Street

Article excerpt

Ellington Was Not a Street Written by Ntozake Shange Illustrated by Kadir Nelson Simon & Schuster, 2004, unpaged, ISBN 978-0- 6898-2884-3

This homage to African American men who made history is intended for contemporary children who know these names only as commemorative plaques on buildings or streets. The opening spread shows a street sign indicating "Ellington St." with pedestrians walking beneath it, unaware; facing text from Shange's poem "Mood Indigo" (not the Duke Ellington composition of the same name; originally published in A Daughter's Geography, St. Martin's Press, 1983) reads "it hasnt always been this way / ellington was not a street" [sic]. "Mood Indigo" is interpreted here from the point of view of a young girl; in bell hooks's style, there is little punctuation and no capitalization, which adds to the childlike tone.

The spare text accompanies a series of vignettes featuring dignified, richly colored portraits of the men when they come to visit: "robeson no mere memory," "du bois walked up my father's stairs," and so on. …

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