Monday, January 22, 2007
Up Before Daybreak: Cotton and People in America
Hopkinson, Deborah. 2006. UP BEFORE DAYBREAK: COTTON AND PEOPLE IN AMERICA. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439639018 [Suggested Grade Levels 5 – 12]
Simple expository text, powerful archival photographs, and dramatic oral history combine in this unique perspective of our nation’s economic past. Hopkinson says that “the story of cotton—growing it, taking it to market, and making it into cloth—is like a thread that stretches far back into America’s past.”
In a discussion that spans colonial to modern times, Hopkinson examines cotton’s impact on men, women and most poignantly, children. Hannah Scott, a former slave from Alabama recalls growing up on a cotton plantation: “Sometimes I got so tired come night, I dropped right in the row and went to sleep,” she recalled. “Then the drivers would come along, and wham, they’d cut you across the back with the whip and you woke up, yes, sir!”
Lucy Larcom’s story, although less brutal, illustrates another way children suffered for cotton. “It really was not hard,” she said of her work in a cotton mill starting at age eleven, but the work made school impossible. “It was not,” she observes “and could not be, the right sort of life for a child.” Finally, Hopkinson leaves her readers with the disturbing idea that children still work in cotton fields and mills in some parts of the world.
Guide students in exploring web sites related to child labor: http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/about.htm and http://www.unicef.org/protection/index_childlabour.html. Help students organize a fundraising project to support a reputable organization that works globally to advocate for children, like UNICEF.
Other books about child labor in America:
Freedman, Russell. KIDS AT WORK: LEWIS HINE AND THE CRUSADE AGAINST CHILD LABOR. ISBN 0395797268
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. GROWING UP IN COAL COUNTRY. ISBN 0395979145
By Suzy Parchman