Lift as You Climb The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell
Review by Frannie Rooney, Literacy First Volunteer
I came across “Lift as You Climb” while browsing the Austin Public Library’s Kids section. It was the first book I saw under “New”. Considering the current progress of the Black Lives Matter movement, both nationally and internationally. I found it important to focus on a book about a Black activist that is not typically spoken about. I am in my 20s and had never heard of Ella Baker myself. I, like so many others, was done the disservice of not being educated enough on the history of people of color in the United States. We learned briefly about Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks. Considering the
importance of Ella Baker in the movement to register Black voters and uplift their voices, I would recommend teaching children about more instrumental people in the Civil Rights Movement. Their knowledge of the Black experience should not be limited to Black History Month.
I enjoyed the book’s descriptions of the work Ella did to motivate Black people to stand up for their rights. She recognized the importance of having everyday people, middle class, and poor, join the movement. The book also included instances of protests and the reason why people were protesting. Such as the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaign where Black people refused to purchase from businesses that would not hire them. Children should be made aware of the meaning behind peaceful protests and how they have worked to make improvements towards correcting racial injustices in the past.
The author did make use of some rather antiquated terms like “Negroe” and “colored people” but given the historical context of the book, I can understand the reasoning. When using such language I would recommend introducing appropriate terminology. For instance, when employing a person-first language we should say “person of color” instead. Because of this and the references to violence, I believe this book should not be introduced to very young children.