December 16, 2016

Plantation Christmas

Christmas Gif': an anthology of Christmas poems, songs, and stories written by and about African-Americans
compiled by Charlemae Hill Rollins
illustrated by Ashley Bryan

For a serious and religious perspective on Christmas, try this collection of stories, poems, songs, and recipes. They reflect the experiences of African-Americans during olden times. Some of the stories reflect a somber mood, as in those written by Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington, but others are light-hearted as well. Roark Bradford's How Come Christmas is a rather funny take on the origin of Santa Claus. As well, poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, Countee Cullen, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Gabriela Mistral, and Effie Lee Newsome celebrate the birth of Christ. 

Ashley Bryan’s woodcut illustrations complement the stories well.

A thoughtful book that reflects a more solemn outlook.

To better capture the reality of a plantation Christmas, read Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters, by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack. 

In moving prose, the McKissacks show the stark differences between Christmas celebrations in the big plantation mansions and those in the slave quarters. They set the story in 1859, a few years before the Civil War. So the tone is not just one of celebration, but of rebellion and hope as well. John Thompson’s paintings add solemnity and cheer, while his closing illustration is both moving and powerful.

A good book to pair with Christmas Gif'.

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