The Reading Quilt: Africa is My HomeJun 15, 2022 11:00AM ● By Dr. Rachel Slaughter
It is safe to say that the average American has little knowledge of the bustling cities on the continent of Africa, rich in culture and abundant in resources. It is probable that the first images that come to mind when an American thinks of the vast continent are poverty, war, and death. In fairness to the average Joe, very little about African nations or Africa’s history is included in the standard US school curriculum. Instead the average Joe is likely to learn misinformation about the continent from the media where lies and stereotypes about Africa are pervasive, even ubiquitous.
On a personal note, I learned nothing about Africa in my elementary school for a couple of reasons: Geography was rarely covered in any lesson and Africa, according to my teachers, had a simple story: the continent is primitive and the people are poor. It wasn’t until 1977, when Americans were glued to their TV sets to watch the miniseries “Roots,” that the teachers in my predominantly white school took note. Based on Alex Haley’s novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family published in 1976, the four episodes chronicled the life of Kunta Kinte, a young African boy captured and sold into slavery in 18th century Africa. Starring LeVar Burton as Kunta, Kunta Kinte’s life story, as an enslaved person, as it unfolded in North America shocked American viewers since it was one of the first time the institution of slavery was portrayed in graphic detail.
The saga of enslaved African people and their White owners brought the Lord Ligonier ship into focus. Lord Ligonier was a New England-made British slave ship that transported captured humans Annapolis, Maryland in 1767. The vessel transported Kunta from the Gambia to Colonial America.
Each month “The Reading Quilt” provides a short review of a book that a teacher may use to spark conversations about culture and race, along with a learning activity that may help students understand human behavior. Using the acronym Q.U.I.L.T., Slaughter offers readers information about the Quality of writing, Universal theme, and Imaginative plot, as well as a mini Lesson plan, and Talking points that stem from the book’s premise. This month, a middle grade literature book, which takes the reader on a journey with Sara Margru Kinson, a real life hero fictionalized in the book, is featured.
Beautifully illustrated by Robert Boyd, the reader begins the journey in Mendeland, West Africa where Sara is proudly showing off the bountiful village populated with green bamboo and rice fields. Suddenly a boat arrives and Sara is captured by people who “look like ghosts.” Along with many other villagers, Sara is taken away from her paradise. In a compelling historically fictionalized narrative, Edinger allows the true story of the Amistad to unfold.
(Image Source: Inkwell Management)
Edinger, a professional book reviewer, is an elementary school teacher who often writes about her work as an educator. Edinger’s keen interest in Africa is inspired by her time as a volunteer in the Peace Corps.
QUALITY: Africa is My Home: A Child of Amistad opens in the glorious sunshine where Sara is proudly surveying God’s beauty in her vast backyard, Mendeland, West Africa. When Sara turned nine, her beautiful land was hit with a drought which extinguished the prolific greenery and fruit trees. Food became scarce as the elders tried desperately to save the babies in the village. Using historical context, Edinger captivates readers of all ages with the villagers’ desperate attempt to find food for the children. Sara’s father grapples with the offer to sell her to a man in the village in exchange for rice. The sacrifice of one person is his way of saving the masses. Shortly after being sold to the villager, Sara was kidnapped in the dead of night, and thrown aboard the Amistad.
UNIVERSAL THEME: Through Sara’s eyes, readers take the seven week journey on the Amistad where we hear the “heaving ocean” as we lay silent, in chains and shackles, in a dark and dank hole. When the boat finally docks in Cuba, the captors allow the dazed and sick victims to wash the seven weeks of filth from their naked bodies. The sad and hopeless victims, filled with fear, yearned to break free of their captors and return to their paradise.
IMAGINATIVE STORY: On the first day in Cuba, as the captives are led through the streets of Havana, they are amazed with the sights and sounds of a foreign land. Their paradise of Mendeland is a far and distant dream. Soon, the quest to return to Mendeland causes one captive, known as Cinque, to plot his escape from the “ghost people” and return to Mendeland by any means necessary. It won’t be long before Cinque convinces the enslaved people to rise up telling them, “We may as well die trying to be free as to be killed and eaten.”
LESSON PLAN: Published by Candlewick Press, Africa is My Home: A Child of The Amistad is “a retelling of the story of the Amistad slave ship through the eyes of a child, the real-life figure Sarah Margru Kinson. The story of the Amistad is one of resistance and rebellion that is often left out of history textbooks. Appropriate for ages 10 and up, the book is a great companion to the abundant research which details the Mende uprising on the Spanish owned ship Amistad which ironically is a word that translates to “friendship” in English. The book includes an author’s note and words from Sarah written in December 18, 1847. “Africa is my home. I long to be there” she writes. “Although I am in America, yet my heart is there. The people I love and the country I admire…” A survey of the selected sources found at the back of the book would be a solid start of a lesson about the Amistad.
TALKING POINTS: Africa is My Home: A Child of the The Amistad is a story about Black heroism and resilience. In this book, the reader visits Mendeland, West Africa. How much do you know about countries in Africa? What are the best resources to find out more information about Africa, the second largest continent in the world?
Dr. R. A. Slaughter’s (Doc) textbooks Turning the Page: The Ultimate Guide for Teachers to Multicultural Literature, and Turning the Page: A Guide to Securing Multicultural Literature for Schools, both published by Rowman & Littlefield and available in all bookstores, have brought Doc international recognition. For more information, log onto DrRachelSlaughter.com.
Read more from Dr. Rachel Slaughter:
This month, a YA Lit book that takes us on a journey to Space Camp where we learn about the amazing Black astronauts and physicists, is the focus of this month’s reading quilt. Read More »
Each month, “The Reading Quilt” provides a short review of a book that a teacher may use to spark conversations about culture and race, along with a learning activity that may help stude... Read More »