When Grandmama Sings
“Belle, tonight was special. I could feel all of those folks with me. I want us to feel this way all the time. I want to sing in a place where black people and white people aren’t kept apart,” Grandmama said. “That’s the kind of world I want for you.”
When Grandmama Coles gets a big chance, Belle gets one, too. Belle’s going to spend the summer touring the South with Grandmama and a swing jazz band! Belle’s never been outside Pecan Flats, Mississippi, and she can’t wait to go on the road with Grandmama, helping her read signs and menus and hearing her sing. There are so many new things to see on their travels through the Deep South. But some things aren’t new. Everything is segregated, just like at home. But Grandmama stands up for what’s right. And when she sings, Belle knows that Grandmama’s song can bring everyone together.
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Uncle Jed’s Barbershop
“After Uncle Jed cut my daddy’s hair, he lathered a short brush with soap and spread it over my daddy’s face and shaved him. Then he started over on my granddaddy. I always asked Uncle Jed to cut my hair, but Mama wouldn’t let him. So he would run the clippers on the back on my neck and just pretend to cut my hair. He even spread lotion on my neck. I would smell wonderful all day.”
Sarah Jean’s Uncle Jed was the only black barber in the county. He had a kind heart and a warm smile. And he had a dream. Living in the segregated South of the 1920’s, where most people were sharecroppers. Uncle Jed had to travel all over the county to cut his customers’ hair. He lived for the day when he could open his very own barbershop. But it was a long time, and many setbacks, from five-year-old Sarah Jean’s emergency operation to the bank failures of the Great Depression, before the joyful day when Uncle Jed opened his shiny new shop — and twirled a now grown-up Sarah Jean around in the barber chair.
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“Granddaddy waited for me at the top of the courthouse steps. He took my hand. ‘Daughter,’ he said, ‘hold your head up high. We have done nothing wrong.’ Granddaddy told me there was something important to strive for in addition to the good things we had. There were some things that made a person feel good inside, like having the rights we were all entitled to as citizens of these United States. I didn’t understand everything then, but I lifted my head.”
Little Joe and her brother and sisters live on a farm in Mississippi with their grandparents. When Little Joe doesn’t want to go to school, Granddaddy tells her about laws that have kept black people from having the same rights as white people, like the right to vote. Then Granddaddy courageously becomes the town’s first black registered voter, and Little Joe learns about determination and endurance in the face of prejudice – and the importance of finding her own voice.
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