Carter G. Woodson: Book Awards

By Ellis, Brenda | Social Education, May-June 2004 | Go to article overview

Carter G. Woodson: Book Awards


Ellis, Brenda, Social Education


NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR THE SOCIAL STUDIES is pleased to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Carter G. Woodson Book Awards. This award, established in 1973 by an NCSS committee on racism and social justice, has honored children's books that depict ethnicity and race issues in United States history.

The book award was created to pay tribute to the distinguished African American writer, scholar, and educator Carter G. Woodson. Woodson was born in Virginia in 1875 and raised with nine other siblings. He received a bachelor's degree from Berea College in Kentucky and a master's from the University of Chicago. He was the second African American to receive a doctorate from Harvard, and the only person of slave parentage to have done so. Woodson is often regarded as the "Father of Negro History." In 1926, he created Negro History Week, which was held during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The celebration he created later developed into Black History Month.

With the Carter G. Woodson award, NCSS recognizes the outstanding efforts of authors and publishers to provide quality social studies books for children that focus on diversity in the United States. Books are chosen for their sensitivity, accuracy, and quality.

This year's selections were announced at an awards ceremony in Chicago during the annual National Council for the Social Studies conference. The award books mirror the diversity of the United States and reflect an ever-growing area of children's books. The authors who received the award and an honor distinction for books in the 2003 competition are listed below, along with brief reviews of the works.

2003 Carter G. Woodson Award book: Elementary Level

CESAR CHAVEZ: THE STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE/ LA LUCHA POR LA JUSTICIA, by Richard Griswold del Castillo, illustrated by Anthony Accardo. Houston, Tex.: Pinata Books, an imprint of Arte Publico Press.

Reviewed by Dean Cristol, an assistant professor of social studies at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia. Part of the Hispanic Civil Rights series, Cesar Chavez: The Struggle for Justice/La lucha por la justicia presents for young readers the life of the first nationally known Mexican American labor leader. The book begins by describing Chavez's life as a child first living in Arizona and then moving to California after his family lost their grocery store during the 1930s. Del Castillo takes the reader through Chavez's early years as a community organizer to his becoming the national leader of migrant farm workers. In the 1960s, Chavez took on his greatest challenge, leading the United Farm Workers Union strike for better wages from the California grape growers. The strike followed a philosophy of non-violence and gained national prominence. Chavez fasted for twenty-five days, eventually ending the fast when Bobby Kennedy visited him to offer support. Eventually, the strike ended on July 29, 1970, when the farmers signed an agreement with the union. For the rest of his life, Chavez worked for better and safer working conditions. In 1994, a year after Chavez's death, President Clinton awarded him the highest civilian medal, the Medal of Freedom, for his heroism and service to the principles of equality, justice, and liberty.

Del Castillo is an accomplished professor of Chicano history. This is his first book for young readers. The impetus for this work was a scholarly book he co-authored with Richard Garcia, Cesar Chavez: A Triumph of Spirit. Del Castillo's goal for both books was to describe and depict Chavez's life's work as a "non-violent struggle through spiritual strength giving people a chance for the American dream."

The text on each page is written in English and Spanish, a liberating and effective use of language. Educators can use this book as a medium for students learning English and/or Spanish while at the same time learning about an important person and time in American history The illustrations by Accardo are colorful and historically accurate. …

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