Academic journal article Language Arts

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders

Academic journal article Language Arts

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders

Article excerpt

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders Written by J. Patrick Lewis Illustrated by Jim Burke, R. Gregory Christie, Tonya Engel, John Parra, and Meilo So Chronicle Books, 2013, unpaged, ISBN 978-1- 4521-0119-4

Lewis's outstanding collection of 15 poems highlighting national and international civil rights leaders is sobering and inspiring. Opening with a thoughtfully crafted Shakespearian-style sonnet, he notes: "When thunder comes,/The civil righteous are finished being meek. . . ." Lewis's decisions on who and what to include make this volume exceptional. For example, he focuses on Coretta Scott King's plea to King's followers to "Embrace the boys that Hate employs" the morning after her husband's assassination, and later on Mamie Carthan Till's act of rebellion in forcing witness of the grotesque acts committed by racist Whites on her son. Lewis also includes Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person elected to US public office-a first for a middle-grades collective biography. He has James Chaney narrate Milk's and fellow Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E) volunteers' deaths in a first-person, free-verse, block paragraph, shaped almost like a grave, using starkly beautiful phrasing: "Freedom Summer is Forlorn Winter at the tag end of living. …

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