A little known civil rights hero and college football MVP finally gets a voice in this fictional account detailing Chester Pierce's game-changing play as he became the first black college football player to compete south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
In 1947, no African American player can play at a southern school; in return, the opposing team benches a player of "equal talent." This historical fiction picture book frames a turbulent time in the civil rights era with the clever use of a football play to show race relations and teamwork. Inspired by a true story, capturing a historic defense against the Jim Crow laws of the South.
About the Author
Gloria Respress-Churchwell has an MFA in writing for children from Simmons College and has produced and directed documentaries at the Nashville Film Festival including award-winner The Life of Robert Churchwell: The Jackie Robinson of Journalism and From Sag to Swag: The Power of Dress. She is a co-contributor of the Robert Churchwell Journalism Collection to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Laura Freeman has illustrated more than twenty children's books, including Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English, and Fancy Party Gowns:The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal. Her art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes to textiles to greeting cards. Laura is originally from New York City and now lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children.
It takes tremendous courage to make history.At 8, Chester Pierce saved his younger brother when he fell in a well, becoming a hero in his small New York town. He grew up loving football, basketball, and music. He learned to play multiple instruments and even became the first black senior-class president of his high school. Despite his principal's doubts, Chester applied to Harvard and was accepted, growing his confidence. While there, Chester played varsity football. In 1947, his team was scheduled to play the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where Jim Crow forbade Chester to play. But the coach knew a change was coming, so he told Chester to "get ready." Chester knew "that being the first black person to do something was never easy" but that the challenge would be worth it. Despite on-campus racism, Chester's teammates believed Jim Crow laws were wrong. They devised an off-the-field play they called "Follow Chester!" and determined that they would stick with him as a team, bolstering his confidence. Chester and his team faced a record-breaking crowd and played as hard as they could. Telling the tale simply, Respress-Churchwell does not shy away from direct statements about Chester's emotions and challenges. In Freeman's illustrations, Chester's facial expressions are pensive early in the story, but as he gains confidence, they become more determined.This straightforward sports tale will encourage readers to face adversity head-on. —Kirkus Reviews