Cover Reveal & Interview – Leah Henderson’s Together We March: 25 Protest Movements That Marched into History
You never know when a chance encounter will put you in the path of someone incredible.
Years ago I was speaking at an SCBWI conference. It’s a conference that has since caused me a lot of consternation because I am 90% certain that I didn’t know where it was at the time, in spite of my having flown there, and I certainly can’t remember now. Memory is fickle. It doesn’t just produce answers when you want them, and what it holds onto can often be too random for words. There are times, though, when my memory does me a solid. I don’t remember where the conference was, but I remember meeting Leah Henderson. Already at that time she had a middle grade novel coming out. It was called One Shadow On the Wall, and it received strong reviews from Kirkus and SLJ.
Now Ms. Henderson is back, but in the nonfiction sphere of things. Together We March: 25 Protest Movements That Marched into History isn’t slated to hit shelves anywhere until January 2021, but already Simon & Schuster is gearing up for it. Here’s the pitch:
March through history and discover twenty-five groundbreaking protest movements that have shaped the way we fight for equality and justice today in this stunningly illustrated and sweeping book!
For generations, marches have been an invaluable tool for bringing about social change. People have used their voices, the words on their signs, and the strength in their numbers to combat inequality, oppression, and discrimination. They march to call attention to these wrongs and demand change and action, from a local to a global scale.
Whether demanding protective laws or advocating for equal access to things like voting rights, public spaces, and jobs, the twenty-five marches in this book show us that even when a fight seems impossible, marching can be the push needed to tip the scales and create a movement. This gorgeous collection celebrates this rich and diverse history, the often-overlooked stories, and the courageous people who continue to teach us the importance of coming together to march today.
Leah asked if I’d be game to do the cover reveal, and you know I love a good revealing o’ the covers, but I had a couple questions for her first. Luckily, she was willing to oblige.
Betsy Bird: I know how long it takes for a book to go from concept to its final state. Your book feels practically prescient when you consider the topic and the times in which we live. Was this something you’d been intending to do for a while or was it inspired by the current BLM movements sweeping the nation?
Leah Henderson: Ideas are always swooping around in my head, and only those that really want to get caught ever do. Living in D.C., marches are all around me. But in recent years, especially after the last presidential inauguration, it feels like there have been a thunderstorm of feet outside my door in protest! It’s been fascinating to watch and think about what all the varied voices and people of different lived experiences are speaking out against and in favor of.
The idea for this book started fluttering around at the beginning of 2017. Then on July 28th of that same year, I was struck by people’s shocked reactions to the google doodle celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Silent Parade. A moment when Black Americans marched in silence down 5th Avenue in New York City protesting many of the same things we continue to protest today—fairness, equality, police brutality, and protection under the law. So many people wondered why they’d never heard of such a historic moment in American history. Even though I was familiar with the event, there was still so much about that day, and the lead up to it that I did not know. I began to wonder what other protests movements faded into the background, while others became the catalyst for great change. My curiosity got the best of me, and I started digging, discovering, and rediscovering moments when people came together to march.
The moment we are in now has definitely left me thinking so much about the marches and marchers that came before and the marches and marchers that are still to come.
BB: I have a friend we always used to refer to as a Red Diaper Baby since her parents would take her to protests all the time as a kid. The concept of kids at a protest was so far removed from how I grew up. These days, kids are visible at all kinds of protests. How do you see them using this book?
LH: Growing up, I wasn’t taken to marches either, but if there had been some in my area, I’m certain my parents would’ve had my brothers and me out there witnessing and making a history of our own. Instead, they took us to places in the world that spoke of history, change, and mindsets we needed to know, and understand. From going to South Africa, the year apartheid ended to celebrate the victory of Nelson Mandela in the historic democratic presidential election to visiting the Sixth Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama where so many children decided to take action and march down those church steps during the Children’s March of 1963, my parents have taught us a global history of protest.
I know not every child will be blessed with these kinds of first-hand experiences or have the opportunity or courage to protest with family or friends, so I hope they will be able to connect with them in the pages of my book. We all need to remember how a number of the things people speak out about today, have been fought against by so many before us. I really want young people to understand from the examples of activists their own age throughout the book that they are never too young to march!
BB: Does your book look at American protests alone or does it look worldwide?
LH: Struggles and protests are happening all over the world, so the book features marches in the U.S. and abroad.
BB: What are some of the lesser known protests you included?
LH: I actually tried to have a good balance between marches that are well known and those that may not be. For instance: The Mud March of 1907 (England), the Silent Parade of 1917 (New York), Capitol Crawl of 1990 (District of Columbia), Global March Against Child Labour of 1998 (Philippines to Switzerland), Million Puppet March of 2012 (District of Columbia), and the Wanyama Urithi Wetu Walk (Wildlife is Our Heritage Walk) of 2013 (Kenya) just to name a few.
My hope in highlighting a range of marches is to showcase the power and connections between marches both large and small. They each have a purpose.
BB: If kids could know about only one protest from this book, which one would you like them to know?
LH: I think it would have to be the Children’s March (The Children’s Crusade) that took place in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. When thousands of young people, many whom had never been political before, left their classrooms to march for equality. They understood that it was not only their parents fight, but that they were also directly affected by the laws of the Jim Crow south.
They wanted to fight for their own futures and stood their ground against racist attacks both verbally and physically. And that although they were undoubtedly scared, they understood that marching together was a peaceful way for them to get involved to try and bring about change since many of them were not old enough to vote, and those who were of age were often denied that right as well.
I think the Children’s March truly shows the power, bravery, resilience and determination of young people when they march for a cause that is just. It is also one of the marches that has inspired many young activists today.
Huge thanks to Leah for answering my questions here. And you know what? Let’s make this special. I’m not just going to give you one cover. I’m going to give you the front cover AND the full jacket! Let’s do this right!
Thanks again to Leah for making this all happen.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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