Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Give Me Wings

Publish November 5, 2015

Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World by Kathy Lowinger is an impressive book that takes a clear look at some very complicated subjects: slavery, prejudice, the American Civil War, and the power of music. The Jubilee Singers were a choir who came together in 1871 in a desperate attempt to raise money for their school, Fisk University. Ella Shepherd, a talented musician who was born into slavery, led the choir on a fundraising tour. Poor, hungry, and cold, the choir was denied hotel rooms, entrance to restaurants, and first-class seats on trains. The conditions were so difficult they almost gave up. But they persevered, and the beauty of their music began to win over audiences, who initially looked down on the threadbare singers. People in United States, Europe, and England were profoundly moved by their haunting spirituals, the songs of slavery. Lowinger does an excellent job of presenting the story in the context of this tumultuous time in American history. She makes it personal by giving a short biography of each member of the choir, and textboxes highlight important figures (John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln and others). Instructive maps, photographs, and illustrations fill out the history of slavery and the story of the war, and nearly every chapter includes the lyrics to one of the spirituals sung by the Jubilee Singers. This is a sober and thoughtful book about how people can have faith in the face of overpowering odds, and how music can touch people’s hearts and open their minds.

Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World

Kathy Lowinger
Annik Press
ISBN 13: 978-1-55451-747-3