2000 Carter G. Woodson Book Award Winners and Honor Books

National Council for the Social Studies is pleased to celebrate the 2000 Carter G. Woodson Book Awards. In this, the twenty-sixth year of the Awards, one winner and two honor books have been recognized for each of two levels: elementary and secondary. The choices were announced in May 2000, and presented at an awards reception during the 80th NCSS Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas, in November 2000.

The Awards honor Carter G. Woodson, a distinguished African American scholar, writer, and educator, who wrote works on black history for children as well as adults. Woodson originated “Negro History Week” in 1926. He chose the second week in February for this observation because it contains the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Later, “Negro History Week” became the celebration we now know as “Black History Month.”

NCSS designed the Woodson Awards to recognize the efforts of authors and publishers to provide quality social studies books for school-aged readers dealing with ethnicity in the United States. Books are chosen for their sensitivity and accuracy in dealing with racial and ethnic issues. The NCSS Committee on Racism and Social Justice, under the chairmanship of Dr. James A. Banks of the University of Washington in Seattle, led the effort to establish the Awards.

Teachers may want to use these books in classroom settings, or read them and recommend them to their students. All titles represent a mark of excellence, whether the focus is on an individual or an ethnic group. The authors who received the award and honor distinctions for books placed into competition for the 2000 Carter G. Woodson Book Award are listed below, along with brief reviews of the works honored.

2000 Carter G. Woodson Award Book: Secondary

Princess Ka‘iulani: Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People
by Sharon Linnéa. Grand Rapids, MI: Erdmans Books for Young Readers.

Reviewed by: Marcie Taylor-Thoma, State Coordinator of Social Studies, Maryland

Imagine growing up a princess in an island paradise. In this book, Sharon Linnéa tells the story of Princess Ka‘iulani, niece of Queen Lili‘uokalani and last heir to the Hawaiian throne, whose reign was never to be. Princess Ka‘iulani experienced the pain of seeing her island kingdom fall under the domination of foreign interests and change forever. Her lifelong struggle was to reconcile the way in which the Western world of her father, a Scottish businessman, encroached upon—and eventually took over—the royal kingdom she shared with her mother, Princess Miriam Likelike of the Kamehameha family.

This biography tells the fascinating story of Princess Ka‘iulani’s courage in her fight to maintain Hawaii’s independence. The informative text—supplemented by journal entries, letters, and photographs—provides many insights into the politics and society of Hawaii in the late 19th century. The author’s dedication includes “those of Hawaiian heritage who proudly preserve their culture.”

This biography should encourage students to learn more about the events it describes. Younger students may be interested in comparing Princess Ka‘iulani’s family to other royal dynasties throughout history. Older students might examine the process by which the United States justified taking over the island in its own economic interests.


2000 Carter G. Woodson Honor Books: Secondary

Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers, by Patricia C. McKissack & Frederick L. McKissack. New York: Scholastic Press.

Reviewed by: Carrie P. Sorensen, Professor, Teacher Education,
Saginaw Valley State University, University Center, Michigan

Secondary students often become familiar with only one perspective on African American history in pre-Civil War America. Black Hands, White Sails provides a fascinating introduction to the role of African Americans in the whaling industry of the eastern United States before and during the ‘Golden Age of Whaling’ (1800-1860.) During this period, it was common for whaling to be a major part of the business of any eastern port city, and for African Americans to comprise one fourth of a whaling ship’s crew.

Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack collaborated in researching and writing about how African Americans—freemen and escaped slaves—became a successful part of this industry. With hard work and intelligence, African American men sailed on whalers and rose to prominence as skilled and sought-after crew members, talented and independent ship builders, and successful ship captains. The McKissacks also describe how whalers became involved in aiding escaped slaves as part of the abolitionist and Underground Railroad movements. Period illustrations show African Americans at work on ships, and allow us to see prosperous African American men of this time period with their families.

This book is a wonderful companion book for middle school/secondary research and study of the colonial and pre-Civil War eras, and/or of African American history.


2000 Carter G. Woodson Honor Books: Secondary

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow: the African American Struggle Against
Discrimination - 1865-1954 by Richard Wormser. New York: Franklin Watts.

Reviewed by: D. C. Vlaskamp, teacher/librarian, New York City Public Schools

This book should find a place in every library. Richard Wormser has brought to life the period of our history—from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement—that witnessed the rise and fall of Jim Crow laws. The author describes the valiant efforts of African Americans newly freed from enslavement to gain acceptance, respect, and true equality in a nation almost everywhere unreceptive to their efforts. It is a story whose resolution entailed struggles both between and within races. And it is history that is essential for understanding ourselves.

Wormser’s writing is interspersed with first-person narratives and contemporary reports that heighten interest and add authenticity to the book. He concludes this account by saying, “Tragically, Jim Crow lingers … In order to be rooted out, it must be recognized. It is for that purpose that this book is written.”

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow is documented with valuable source notes useful for investigation, discovery, and research. This book is multidimensional in approach, sensitive and accurate in its contents, and worthy to be listed among the Carter G. Woodson award books.


2000 Carter G. Woodson Award Book: Elementary

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges. Articles and interviews compiled and edited by Margo Lundel. New York: Scholastic Press.

Reviewed by: Brenda B. Smith, Social Studies Supervisor, Colorado Springs School District Eleven, Colorado Springs, Colorado

“I now know that experience comes to us for a purpose, and if we follow the guidance of the spirit within us, we will probably find that the purpose is a good one.” With these words, Ruby Bridges concludes this poignant look back at the six-year-old child—herself—whose lonely courage helped integrate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960.

The story begins with Ruby’s birth in rural Mississippi, her family’s move to New Orleans, and her kindergarten year at a segregated school. The author explains how her successful testing on a school board exam led her to become one of four black kids—all girls—chosen to begin the desegregation of New Orleans schools. Then came the day of Ruby’s walk up the steps to school with U.S. marshals protecting her from a crowd of yelling white protesters. By day’s end—and for most of a year—Ruby shared her first-grade classroom with her teacher only. The parallel accounts of this experience by Ruby and her teacher, Mrs. Henry, are very moving.

Through this book, Ruby Bridges has set her own personal experiences into the wider context of school integration and the varying responses to it. The ugliness of segregation is exposed through remembrance of what the eyes of a child encountered. The book offers many possibilities for use in the classroom. The photos, contemporary quotes (from both supporters and journalistic observers), Civil Rights Movement timeline, and famed Norman Rockwell painting are excellent enhancements to this truly profound story of an uncommonly courageous little girl.


2000 Carter G. Woodson Honor Books: Elementary

Magic Windows/Ventanas mágicas by Carmen Lomas Garza. As told to Harriet Rohmer. Edited by David Schecter. Spanish translation by Francisco X. Harcon. San Francisco, CA:
Children’s Book Press/Libros Para Niños.

Reviewed by: Dorothy Dobson, Edith Bowden Laboratory School, Utah State University, Logan, Utah

This fine book uses traditional folk art to teach children about the family, community, and heritage of its author. The illustrations, brightly-colored papel picado (cut-paper art) pictures, were created by the author and are explained in both English and Spanish. The subjects they deal with range from a grandfather’s garden, to the customs of the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration, to beliefs of the ancient Aztecs.

This book could be a marvelous teaching tool in the classroom. It not only provides much information about Mexico, but also delights the senses. It could be read aloud in both Spanish and English. Its use could be further enhanced by inviting children to create their own cut-paper art.

In her introduction to this book, the author explains why she titled it as she did. She states, “These pictures … are like magic windows. When you look through them, you can see into another world.” The same can be said of all good books, and Magic Windows/Ventanas Mágicas is a perfect illustration of this.


2000 Carter G. Woodson Honor Books: Elementary

Children of the Tlingit by Frank Staub. Photos by the author. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.

Reviewed by: Dee Storey, Professor, Teacher Education, Saginaw
Valley State University, University Center, Michigan

The contemporary life of the Tlingit, an indigenous people of southeastern Alaska, has been greatly influenced by Eurocentric pressures. Beginning in the 1740s and continuing through the 1860s, Russia claimed the Tlingit homeland and forced the Tlingit to change. In 1867, the Russians sold the Tlingit homeland to the United States. U.S. government policy, aided by missionaries, then caused the children of the Tlingit to be sent from their homes to boarding schools, where they were required to learn and live in Western ways.

By the mid-20th century, mainstream America was growing more respectful of the Tlingit heritage. Tlingit leaders themselves revived interest in their native customs, actively teaching about the Tlingit culture. Tlingit children today can attend week-long Fishing Camps to learn about many aspects of their traditional culture, including food gathering techniques, history, language, tales, crafts, and a sense of respect for the elderly.

Author Frank Staub writes candidly about why many members of the Tlingit nation see the American flag as a painful reminder of a government that pressed them to abandon their culture. His presentation of negative experiences is balanced by some positives, including the revival of a sense of pride among the Tlingit. Teachers could use this book as the starting point for students to consider broad questions about the loss and revival of cultures in the United States and throughout the world.



For more information about this and other NCSS Awards programs, please visit our website at www.socialstudies.org/awards.