Title: Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend
Author: Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud
Illustrator: John Holyfield
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Concepts: discrimination, social justice, jobs, racial inequality.
Review: While young Alex sat on a bench outside waiting for his mother, he passed the time observing an old mule chomping away on collard greens in someone’s garden. Turns out that garden belonged to Miz Pettway, a senior citizen as full of stories as she was enamored with that mule.
It did not take long before Alex learned that this mule, Belle, had played an important role in the Civil Rights movement. Not only did Belle help to pull wagonloads of African Americans around the river to vote in Camden after the white folks there shut down the ferry, Belle was also one of two mules that pulled the coffin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Atlanta after his assassination.
John Holyfield’s striking acrylic paintings add an even deeper layer of meaning to this simple story about how an impoverished town in Alabama became engaged in the Civil Rights movement with a famous quilting group and a less famous but equally important mule named Belle. The book makes a valuable resource for introducing concepts such as discrimination, jobs, and social justice to young readers who are beginning to learn about the history of U.S. race relations.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children