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The Struggle for the Right to Vote

Illustrated by Charly Palmer



About the Book

Shortlist, Goddard Riverside/CBC Young People's Book Prize for Social Justice 

This critical civil rights book for middle-graders examines the little-known Tennessee's Fayette County Tent City Movement in the late 1950s and reveals what is possible when people unite and fight for the right to vote. Powerfully conveyed through interconnected stories and told through the eyes of a child, this book combines poetry, prose, and stunning illustrations to shine light on this forgotten history.

The late 1950s was a turbulent time in Fayette County, Tennessee. Black and White children went to different schools. Jim Crow signs hung high. And while Black hands in Fayette were free to work in the nearby fields as sharecroppers, the same Black hands were barred from casting ballots in public elections.
If they dared to vote, they faced threats of violence by the local Ku Klux Klan or White citizens. It wasn't until Black landowners organized registration drives to help Black citizens vote did change begin--but not without White farmers' attempts to prevent it. They violently evicted Black sharecroppers off their land, leaving families stranded and forced to live in tents. White shopkeepers blacklisted these families, refusing to sell them groceries, clothes, and other necessities.
But the voiceless did finally speak, culminating in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which legally ended voter discrimination. 
Perfect for young readers, teachers/librarians, and parents interested in books for kids with themes of:
ActivismSocial justiceCivil rightsBlack history

Product Details

On sale: January 11, 2022
Age: 9-12 years
Grade: Grades 4-7
Page count: 64 Pages
ISBN: 9781684379798
Reading level: Lexile: 1080L | Fountas/Pinnell: Y

Author Bio

Alice Faye Duncan is the author of multiple children's books, including Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which received a 2019 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor and Honey Baby Sugar Child, which received an NAACP Image Award Nomination for Outstanding Literary Work for Children.Visit alicefayeduncan.com. 

Charly Palmer is a graphic designer and illustrator and has run a successful design studio with a Fortune 500 clientele. Charly is the illustrator of The Teachers March!, which received four starred reviews, and Mama Africa--a children's book chronicling the life of Miriam Makeba--for which he received the 2018 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. Visit charlypalmer.com.


Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature (CSMCL) Best Book of 2022
Bank Street Best Book of the Year
International Literacy Association’s Literacy and Social Responsibility Special Interest Group Social Justice Literature Award

"Using a combination of lyrical prose and free verse, Duncan documents the Tent City movement of Fayette County, Tennessee, in the early 1960s. Palmer's vibrantly hued acrylic paintings make effective use of patterns and textures. Appended with an epilogue (noting the 2013 weakening of the Voting Rights Act), time line, resources, and bibliography, this is an important contribution to civil rights collections." —Booklist

"In this absorbing collection of profiles...Duncan illuminates the grassroots Fayette County Tent City Movement in late-1950s Tennessee, which opposed racial terror aimed at Black voters and eventually helped lead to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Duncan follows the Black activists in quietly compelling prose...[and] Palmer’s abstract spreads, rendered in surreal-colored acrylic, offer mesmerizing visual accompaniment. An empathic tribute that will resonate amid present-day conversations about voter suppression." Publishers Weekly

"A series of interconnected stories about real-life people illuminates the history of Tennessee’s Fayette County Tent City Movement...The historical account is told from the perspective of young James Junior (now a 72-year-old grandfather) and is made personal through the testimonies of individuals who were crucial to the movement, those who are remembered by the community, and those who do the remembering...Palmer’s painterly, evocative paintings effectively capture the era, are suffused with emotional honesty, and bring reverence to the heavy subject matter." —Kirkus Reviews

"[A] historical look back to Fayette County, Tennessee, and the struggles of Black citizens who fought to gain the right to vote...Their stories are told through their voices, and their passion is clearly conveyed through the ardent narrative...The language is straightforward, and the voices are strong and vibrant. Full-color illustrations fill the pages with vibrant paintings that seem to come alive. While the illustrations add another layer of depth  to the text, they are also moving in their own right. A timeline of the development of Fayette County, along with historical photographs, is also included, adding another layer of information for readers. The Fayette movement is presented in a compelling way, and readers will enjoy hearing and learning about this tumultuous period of history... a vivid picture book." —School Library Connection

is an important addition to all collections, a must read for middle and high school readers." —The Nonfiction Detectives