Freedom in Congo Square

by Carole Boston Weatherford

Other authorsR. Gregory Christie (Illustrator.)
Hardcover, 2016





New York, New York : Little Bee Books, [2016]


Six days a week, slaves labor from sunup to sundown and beyond, but on Sunday afternoons, they gather with free blacks at Congo Square outside New Orleans, free from oppression. Includes foreword about Congo Square by Freddi Williams Evans, glossary, and historical notes.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Tracie_Shepherd
This story tells the plight of slaves New Orleans and the one day of the week when they could feel free. It is beautifully brought to life with folk art that exhibit the joy of Congo Square.The foreward nicely explains the history of Congo Square and the author's noted provides even more
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information about the importance of being able to gather on Sundays in Congo Square. I would use this book in the library to tell about slavery in an honest manner.
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LibraryThing member pataustin
In lyrical couplets and dramatic images, author and illustrator paint the picture of the hardworking and cruel life for enslaved people in New Orleans, where each day of the week, they counted down the days to Congo Square. “Wednesdays, there were beds to make, silver to shine, and bread to
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bake,/ The dreaded lash, too much to bear, Four more days to Congo Square.” “Thursdays, there were clothes to clean, floors to scrub, and babes to wean,/ Spirituals rose from the despair, Three more days to Congo Square.” Come Sunday, slaves had the afternoon off, and they congregated at an open space they called Congo Square (now in Louis Armstrong Park) with free people of color as well as other slaves. For that one half a day, they tasted freedom: they were free to sing, dance, and speak in African languages. Keeping ancestral roots alive, they shared news, concerns, and goods in the marketplace. A forward and an author’s note provide further historical information. Thrumming with drumbeats and bursts of color, this homage to a cultural tradition is singularly valuable for Louisiana schools.
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LibraryThing member LeslieMuir
Freedom In Congo Square is about the week in the life of a plantation slave in the American south leading up to Sunday when they can congregate freely to play music and socialize in Congo Square, New Orleans. This book is about a true place and the represented lives that actually worked on the
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nearby plantations. Its historically accurate, although the author imagines the circumstances and tasks that lead up to the slaves spending their day off in Congo Square. I was a history major for undergrad and I am always in total awe of picture books that can masterfully and easily teach kids accurate history in an engaging way. This book has collaged painted images that are bright and seem to pop off the page, all done in a way that mimics some traditional forms of African-American art.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
In Louisiana, slaves had a day off from work on Sundays. In New Orleans, after 1817, they could only gather in one place on this day, an open field known as Congo Square. There, the slaves could play African music, dance, play, and sing. As the author says in an Afterword, “For a few hours every
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Sunday, Congo Square gave slaves a taste of freedom.”

The book begins with a Foreword by a historian about Congo Square (which is now located within Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans).

Then the author uses rhyming couplets on double-page spreads to take us through the days of the week to show some of the work done by slaves, and how much they looked forward to Sundays. Midweek, for example:

“Wednesdays, there were beds to make,
silver to shine, and bread to bake.

The dreaded lash, too much to bear.
Four more days to Congo Square.”

Come Sunday, both the author and illustrator convey the joy of that one day:

“They rejoiced as if they had no cares;
half day, half free in Congo Square.

This piece of earth was a world apart.
Congo Square was freedom’s heart.”

The book ends with a glossary and an Author’s Note.

R. Gregory Christie is the perfect illustrator for a book that focuses so much on movement, whether showing the work done by slaves during the week, or dancing and singing on Sundays. He uses folk art-style paintings and a bright palette well-represented by Pan-African colors. His figures look more rigid and angled during the work week, but they stretch and leap and flow in Congo Square.

Both the author and the illustrator have garnered many awards.

Evaluation: This book has much to recommend it: the story will teach children some of the many things slaves were required to do. Moreover, the juxtaposition of the harshness of slavery with the joy expressed on (half)days of freedom certainly illustrates - both in words and pictures, how absurd was the outrageous canard that slaves were “happy.” Finally, the way Christie changes the lines and colors of his art can show children how important and effective images are in affecting perception.
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LibraryThing member AlbertPascal
This vibrantly illustrated book is a story of slavery, oppression, music and hope. Poetically written, the lines count the days until Sunday when the enslaved plantation workers can go to Congo Square to taste a small piece of freedom. They trade news, wares, crops, and they sing and dance. This
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book is about the birth of jazz, rising up through the despair and injustice of slavery.

This is a good read-aloud book; one that rhymes too. It humanizes history through an engaging narrative and vivid images. Readers can also learn about historical events like the Louisiana Purchase, the Code Noir, slavery, and the development of jazz as an American art form.
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LibraryThing member airdnaxela
A fantastic book which conveys the life of African slaves in America. The author provides background in the beginning and the end of the story, which helps to explain to students the historical events. The illustrations mimic the theme of expressions of African culture, and though they are
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abstract, they communicate very direct messages about the lives of oppressed people. I appreciate the rhythmic style of writing, and the way the pages are organized by each day of the week. It seems like a great book for discussing complex and difficult historical topics.
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LibraryThing member bxr032
This story my have the sad truth about slavery in it but it also includes
LibraryThing member Whisper1
Located at the Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans, rich in history, this is a story of Congo Square, in slave time, this was a place of luxury, a place and time where the slave can let the music take him o r her wherever they dreamed. In Congo Park one could be free from rank and cruelty.

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in concept, the black slave could have one day off, and that day was Sunday. But, sadly as time went on, there was only one place where the black slave on New Orleans could congregate, and that place was Congo Square.

Today, as then, music occurs, and the spirit is lead to a feeling of freedom, away from everyday grind, and as the music flows the spirit is soon to follow. In New Orleans, after 1817, slaves could only gather in one place on their one day a week, and that place was in an open field known as Congo Square. There, the slaves could play African music, dance, play, and sing.

Each day was as grueling as the next, but the spirit of ancestry and camaraderie helped to make the other six days somewhat bearable.

Freedom in Congo Square is indeed worthy of all the many awards of recognition, including the following:

2017 Caldecott Honor

2017 Coretta Scott King Honor

2017 Charlotte Zolotow Award

A 2016 New York Times Best Illustrated Book
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Original publication date


Physical description

29 cm


1499801033 / 9781499801033


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