Call Me Miss Hamilton: One Woman’s Case for ­Equality and Respect

Millbrook. Feb. 2022. 40p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9781541560406.
Gr 2-4–Mary Hamilton was a devoted activist in the Civil Rights Movement, a freedom rider and the first woman to head the southern region of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality. She was repeatedly arrested for her activism, and she insisted that jailers, court figures, and elected officials refer to her as Miss Hamilton, giving her the honorific typically denied to African Americans at the time. When she refused to answer a prosecutor who used only her first name, a judge held Hamilton in contempt of court. Her appeal went to the Supreme Court, where the justices ruled that all individuals, regardless of race, deserve to be addressed with respect in court. Weatherford’s free verse powerfully and concisely conveys the realities of racism and the threats faced by Hamilton and other activists. The quality and appeal of the book is complicated by the artwork. The digital scratch board illustrations are unique and effective when depicting scenes such as the Supreme Court Building, or details of items like a tea table, but less so in close portraiture of Hamilton and other people. The technique leaves lines scratched across the subjects’ skin and frequently results in uneven facial features, which may be stylistically distracting for literal-minded children. The illustrations are collaged with photographs, which add an appropriate sense of realism and immediacy.
VERDICT Hamilton’s inspiring story has not been the focus of any other book, and for that fact alone it is deserving of shelf space. This evocative and informative story of an unsung heroine is recommended for general purchase.

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