On February 1, 1960, four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down at a race-segregated lunch counter in Woolworth’s and asked for service. When the waitress refused to serve them, they remained seated. This act of passive resistance launched a mass Civil Rights Movement involving tens of thousands of black southerners demanding equality and an end to the hideous system of racial segregation. I was a vocal music teacher in junior high school in the Lower East Side of Manhattan then, and not that much older than these students. Their courage and dignity in the face of constant violence fired my heart and mind.
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Doreen Rappaport is an award-winning author known to educators, parents, children and young adult readers for thirty-eight fiction and non-fiction books that celebrate multiculturalism, the retelling of folktales and myths, history, the lives of world leaders and the stories of those she calls “not-yet-celebrated.”
Her books have received critical acclaim and awards for her unique ability to combine historical facts with intimate storytelling as in her trilogy on black history and for finding “new ways to present the lives of well-known heroes” including Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, Helen Keller, Johan F. Kennedy, John Lennon and the Statue of Liberty.
BEYOND COURAGE: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust (Candlewick Press, Sept. 2012) her most ambitious project to date has been a six-year journey. Her first crossover book for young adults and adults, it was written to inspire a wider public with the stories of the heroic resisters and the defiance of countless numbers of Jews across eleven Nazi-occupied countries during World War II. The book has been honored on seven “Best Children’s Book Lists for 2012,” including The Washington Post, The New York Times and Publishers Weekly.
Among her numerous honors, she is the recipient of The Washington Post Children’s Book Guild Award for Lifetime Achievement for the writing of non-fiction. Her book, Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Bryan Collier, received a Caldecott Honor Award, a Coretta Scott King Award, the Jane Addams Book Award, and an Orbis Pictus Honor Book. It is the seminal children’s book on Dr. King’s non-violent philosophy and has been read to children in New York schools by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Senator Hillary Clinton.
Doreen Rappaport and her husband Bob Rosegarten, an artist, divide their time between New York City and the upstate village of Copake Falls. Children, including her own eight smart, funny, tech-savvy grandchildren, continue to inspire and enrich her life and writing.