Charles Albert Tindley rose from abject poverty to preach to thousands and write the anthem of the Civil Rights movement.
*By and By: Charles Albert Tindley, the Father of Gospel Music by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Bryan Collier. Atheneum, 2020, 42 pages.
Reading Level: Picture Book, ages 4-8
Recommended for: ages 6-10
My life is a sermon inside a song.
I’ll sing it for you. Won’t take long.
Charles was born in 1851 to a free mother and enslaved father. Though technically free, he worked alongside his father and others of his race, both free and slave, into his early teens. He taught himself letters from salvaged scraps of newspaper and learned Bible stories from the spirituals sung in the fields. After emancipation he worked his way to Philadelphia, where he took a job as a janitor in an African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.). He also began writing hymns that reflected his hard life and his eternal hope. Little did he guess he would one day pastor that church, preaching to a congregation of over 3,000 and leading songs that he himself composed. Among them was a lyric that became the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement: “We Shall Overcome.”
Tindley’s story rolls out in rhyming couplets, accompanied by striking double-page paintings accented with collage. The role of the Bible and the Black church in the long march to equal rights could not be better illustrated, and Charles Albert Tindley deserves to be better known.
Overall rating: 5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 5
- Artistic/literary value: 5
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Also in Redeemed Reader:
- Another inspiring story featuring early gospel music is Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World.
- We gave starred reviews to Carole Boston Weatherford’s Freedom in Congo Square and How Sweet the Sound: the story of Amazing Grace. See also our reviews of You Can Fly: the Tuskegee Airmen and The Beatitudes: from Slavery to Civil Rights.
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