Monday, February 22, 2021

A Big Day for Women and Democracy

    Women, particularly Black American women, are widely credited for being difference makers in the recent election. From the voting rights activism and organizing efforts of former Georgia House Representative, Stacey Abrams to the nationwide grassroots turnout and overwhelming 90% of Black women who voted for President Joe Biden, women’s voices were heard loud and clear in the 2020 presidential election. Earlier, for the hundred and forty-four years since our nation’s founding through 1920, women’s voices were subjugated, and their votes silenced.

    A smattering of states allowed women to vote at first; however, it was not until after the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment that all American women gained sovereignty. That’s why the turnout of women last year, which also marked the centennial of the 19th Amendment, was so meaningful. Imagine how different our election results may have been had American women, who make up 51.1% of the total US population (according to data from Statistica), not been allowed to cast a ballot? More, imagine how important and exciting that day was so many years ago when women throughout our nation cast their first vote? 

    Author Terry Lee Caruthers and illustrator Robert Casilla have done just that in a new picture book entitled, The Big Day, which captures the excitement and imagines the thrill of being among the first women in history to cast a vote. Now heading into March and Women’s History Month, read on to learn more and to celebrate yet another important inflection day in our nation’s history.


"The Big Day"
Written by Terry Lee Caruthers, Illustrated by Robert Casilla

                    Publisher:  Star Bright Books Published: 2021

                    ISBN 978-1595729149 Pages: 40         

    Readers will feel like they have taken a step back into history through the story and images of The Big Day, by Terry Lee Caruthers and Robert Casilla. A multi-modal reading experience that begins the moment you open the book and reveal the collage of images that signify the importance of the book’s theme –- The Black Women’s Suffrage Movement. 

    Casilla’s richly colored illustrations enliven Caruthers’ words with detailed drawings that bring history to life and transport the reader into the moment and excitement of Big Mama and Tansy’s big day. 

    From the time they wake, the day is filled with excitement, electricity, and interest. First breakfast and then into the bathtub, their preparations build with each turn of the page. Big Mama then adorns Tansy’s hair with big pink ribbons that match her dress and the magnitude of the day. The occasion is still a mystery to young Tansy when Big Mama loving chided her to “Quit dawdling, child and go get dressed.” 

    The excitement grows as the pair put on their finest: Big Mama dons her Sunday-go-to-meeting dress, her heirloom brooch, and even her wide-brimmed hat, the one with the ostrich feathers and tea roses. But, when Big Mama slips on a white sash with the words “Colored Women’s Political League,” Tangy knows the day is like none other. 

    During the trolley ride to the polling station, Big Mama shares the history of what the day means with Tangy and us. “Not so long ago, we had no say,” Big Mama explains. Enslaved Africans could be bought, sold, and owned like furniture. But after the war, all of that changed, at least for black men. That’s why this day, The Big Day was so important. Big Mama and other women of color could finally participate in the electoral process and partake in American democracy. Black women and women throughout the nation could have their say!

    The story told in The Big Day is the fictionalized account of Agnes Sadler, and is based on true events of September 6th, 1919, when she cast a ballot for the first time in Tennesse, one of the states that afforded women sovereignty prior to 1920. It is a story that is brought to life not only by the narrative accounts but also by the rich array of artifacts, expository text, and context that give the story resonance and relevance for contemporary readers of all ages. 

Valerie Williams-Sanchez, Ph.D. ~ 

This book was provided by Star Bright Books for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 review.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Juneteenth, a Celebration for One and All.

    There’s a movement afoot to make Juneteenth, the annual cultural celebration also known in the African American community as Emancipation Day, a national holiday. 

    Currently, the day is an unofficial holiday celebrated in 47 states, and commemorates June 19th, 1865, as the date when the end of slavery reached slaves in the Southwestern States. It is important because while the Constitutional amendment of the Emancipation Proclamation was formalized in 1863, it was not until years later that freedom was extended throughout the country. The Juneteenth celebration which has been honored and upheld in Black communities for more than 150 years, originated in Galveston, Texas, and is the annual nod to celebrations that followed the reading of the proclamation by General Gordon Granger, shown below, according to ( 

"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."

    Today, Juneteenth is celebrated in all states but three, (the Dakotas and Hawaii) and is hosted in cities across America and beyond. It is universally regarded as a time for reflection and rejoicing. 

    In 2020, legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and now Madame Vice President, Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) to recognize the Juneteenth National Independence Day, as a nationwide day of remembrance. Once ratified, Juneteenth would become the eleventh federal holiday. 

    To introduce young audiences to this important holiday, check out the book and review of the new edition of Juneteenth for Maize, by Floyd Cooper, below. For more information about the holiday and efforts to make it a national holiday, visit and the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation’s website at


  Written and Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

                Publisher: Capstone Editions                     Published: 2021


                ISBN: 978-1-68446-364-0                         Pages: 30         

Mazie is tired of waiting!  She can’t play outside, have a cookie, or stay up late. She just can’t seem to do anything she wants. Instead, the word “no” seems to greet her at most every turn. But even with all of its rules, Dad reminds us, her life does not compare to that of her ancestors, especially her great-great-great-grandpa Mose, who heard “no” even more!

Juneteenth for Mazie is a book about history, freedom, and celebration. From Dad’s retelling of Mose’s struggles as an enslaved African laborer in the cotton fields of the South to the history of those who ran north to freedom following “a bright star,” to recounting her ancestor’s crossing into history on the first Liberation Day, Mazie is taught of the gains made – and those still to be made – by former enslaved Africans in America.  

     Author/illustrator Floyd Cooper commemorates the power of history and remembrance with a personal and resonant tale that beautifully imagines this important inflection point in our nation’s collective cultural history. 


    The new board book edition, originally published in 2015, depicts images that evoke the joy and celebratory spirit the Juneteenth holiday honors. Experienced through Cooper’s narrative and signature artistic style, we traverse eras of change, achievement, and remembrance. 

    Readers savor visual vignettes of Black culture’s rich and tumultuous past, as well as the beauty and diversity of the Black community and its resilience over the ages.  The warmth of the culture is brought to life through Cooper's art that captures the faces and feelings of Americans of the African Diaspora in tones of sepia, gold, and mahogany. Visages and vistas create an artistic collage that conjures a cultural pride that can be appreciated by all.  

        Designed as a title to help families introduce the concept and history of the Juneteenth holiday and all that it represents, Juneteeth for Mazie offers readers a gorgeous chance to feel how African American culture celebrates its steady march forward, and to remember.


Valerie Williams-Sanchez, Ph.D. ~ 

This book was provided by Capstone Editions for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 review.