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Belle, The Last Mule at Gee's Bend: A Civil Rights Story

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  167 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
A true story inspires the moving tale of a mule that played a key role in the civil rights movement-- and a young boy who sees history anew.

Sitting on a bench waiting for his mother, Alex spies a mule chomping on greens in someone's garden, and he can't help but ask about it.""Ol Belle?" says Miz Pettway next to him. "She can have all the collards she wants. She's earned i
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Candlewick Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 296)
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Margo Tanenbaum
There are so many children's books about Martin Luther King, and I would never have guessed from the appealing cover illustration on this title that this was a book that touched on civil rights and especially on Dr. King.

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend, is a delightful historical fiction picture book which tells the story of an ordinary mule named Belle who leads an extraordinary life in the small town of Gee's Bend, Alabama. At the beginning of this tale, we meet Alex, a bored young boy who
Nov 04, 2011 Betsy rated it really liked it
Certain historical figures inspire multiple generations of children's authors to go a little hog wild and pig crazy writing up their lives for general posterity. The biography section of my children's room, like many out there, suffers from an overabundance of Lincoln/Edison/Washington/etc. bios. Even utterly worthy folks like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. get a little overdone, causing one to wonder why folks even bother. Do authors keep writing about the same five folks because schools concentrat ...more
Dec 29, 2011 Barbara rated it really liked it
While waiting for his mother outside a general store in Gee's Bend, Alabama, young Alex happens to get into a conversation with one of the locals. She tells him about the mule that is munching away in a nearby field. It seems that the mule, Belle, and the citizens of this town actually played a part in the Civil Rights Movement, and after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Belle was one of the mules chosen to carry his casket down the city streets, something the great leader had reque ...more
Pamela Kramer
Oct 10, 2011 Pamela Kramer rated it it was amazing
Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud and illustrated by John Holyfield is not a book for toddlers.

This is a read more suited for children (aged seven to twelve) who are interested in the civil rights movement or even just in a good story.

Gee's Bend is a small town in Alabama. This town was the site of a Martin Luther King speech urging the townspeople to register to vote. When they took the ferry to the nearby town to register, it enraged the white res
May 25, 2012 Dolly rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with older children
This is a wonderful tale that describes the events in and around Gee's Bend, Alabama, during the Civil Rights Movement struggles of the mid-1960s. The people and culture of the area are featured as are the visits by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The story centers around an old woman describing these events to a young boy and it really adds a little nostalgia and warmth to the story.

The decision to allow Belle (and Ada) to pull Dr. King's funeral wagon is also described, as is effort the people of
Feb 23, 2012 Lauren rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This is an important story of civil rights--one that exposes the racism and unfairness of the period in a meaningful way AND shows how the civil rights movement and specifically Martin Luther King, Jr. made a real difference to many people. I think many kids have a very pat understanding of the civil rights movement, with a simplified version of the Rosa Parks story furnishing a large part of their comprehension. Belle, The Last Mule at Gee's Bend tells the story of how a group of marginalized, ...more
A young boy, Alex, sits outside a store in Gee's Bend, told to wait for his mother. He watches a mule across the way eating collards from a garden. An older woman joins him, introduces herself as Miz Pettway, and begins to tell the story of why that particular mule deserves all the collards he wishes. Thus begins the story of Belle, one of the mules who carried the casket of Dr. King at his funeral. And the story of a lot more through the eyes of those who lived at Gee's Bend and toiled under t ...more
Lauren Keaney
Jan 28, 2016 Lauren Keaney rated it it was amazing
Summary: As Alex waits outside of a store for his mother in Gee's Bend, he watches a mule eating in a garden across the street. Miz Pettway comes up next to him and begins to tell Alex the story of why this mule, Belle, is so important to her and the whole town. She tells him about the time Martin Luther King made a visit to Gee's Bend and of the effect that it had on the people of the town. It turns out that Belle pulled Dr. King's casket at his funeral, and she now serves as a reminder of the ...more
Maria Armenta
Nov 27, 2014 Maria Armenta rated it really liked it
While young Alex sat on a bench outside waiting for his mother, he passed the time observing an old mule chomping away on collard greens in someone's garden. Turns out that garden belonged to Miz Pettway, a senior citizen as full of stories as she was enamored with that mule.
It did not take long before Alex learned that this mule, Belle, had played an important role in the Civil Rights movement. Not only did Belle help to pull wagonloads of African Americans around the river to vote in Camden af
Brandy Reed
Oct 07, 2014 Brandy Reed rated it really liked it
One of my favorite things about historical fiction books are the actual historical events that are discussed. For example, in the children’s book Belle, the Last Mule by Gee’s Bend, different aspects of history are talked about. This story starts off with a young boy named Alex sitting on a bench by himself. He is very bored and after sometime his elderly owner comes to join him. As they sit and talk they both notice Belle the mule eating some “collard greens” from the garden. When Alex starts t ...more
Mar 05, 2015 MrsRoberts123 rated it it was amazing
This story would fall into the genre of historical fiction. The story transports the reader to the small town of Gee’s Bend, AL where history was made from a visit from Martin Luther King, Jr., who came to urge all of its citizens to vote. The story is told by the owner, of a local hero mule named Belle, to a young boy waiting for his mother, while she buys a quilt. When the white people protested the black people from using the ferry to cross the river to vote, the determined people of the town ...more
Kristi Bernard
Jan 21, 2014 Kristi Bernard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: multicultural
Title: Belle, the Last Mule oat Gee's Bend
Author: Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud
Illustrations: John Holyfield
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763640583


People can be famous and everyone might even hear about them from watching tv, listening to the radio or by word of mouth. But, what about others who have helped in very special ways. How do we hear their stories? And, who would have thought that a mule could be so quietly famous?

Alex and his mother are shopping at Gee's Bend for o
Feb 18, 2014 Taneka rated it really liked it
Another great book about events, places and people that coincide with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral. Belle is one of the mules that pulled the wagon that contained Dr. Kings' coffin from Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College on April 9, 1968. The book talks about how the mules came to be requested for the purpose of pulling the wagon and why it was important for those mules from Gee's Bend in Wilcox County, Alabama to be brought to Atlanta.

I would pair this book with The Cart That
Edward Sullivan
Not so crazy about how the story is framed but it is a great story.
Colby Sharp
Apr 15, 2012 Colby Sharp rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-book
I'm so glad that I read this book. AWESOME story.
Mar 18, 2013 Kelly rated it really liked it
This book is a nominee for the 2013-2014 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Belle, The Last Mule at Gee's Bend tells the true story of a very special mule and the people she represented. As young Alex learns from Mrs. Pettway, Belle's owner, this animal played a very important part in the civil rights movement.

Years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited the small town of Gee's Bend, Alabama, and urged the folks there to do whatever they could to vote. For many of them, it meant traveling by
Pattie Simmons
Oct 04, 2013 Pattie Simmons rated it it was amazing
Title: Belle, The Last Mule at Gee's Bend: A Civil Rights Story by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud

Short Description of the Book: An African-American boy named Alex finds himself bored and hot in modern day south at a place called Gee's Bend. While waiting on his mother to quilt shop, Alex meets an older lady who fills Alex in on why an old mule named Belle is allowed to eat collard greens out of the garden.

Focus: Dialogue: In this lesson I would teach students to visualize images set t
Apr 14, 2012 Joan rated it really liked it
Recommended to Joan by: June Krell
This was a really delightful book. A boy is waiting for his Mom and he notices a mule in the garden across the way and wonders why no one is chasing it away. A woman sits down next to him and tells just why the mule gets such treats. Martin Luther King had helped them register to vote and people in the village turned out for several of the marches. After his death, someone remembered the villagers and honored them by asking if they could send two mules to pull King's casket to the graveyard. Thi ...more
This is a true story, told in such a beautiful oration narrative, about a rural town and two humble mules that pulled the wagon carrying the casket of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A perfect read aloud to share with elementary age students learning about Civil Rights, M.L.K or just want an engaging book read.
I am so glad that Candlewick Press has released this wonderful civil rights story in paperback to bring renewed interest to a deserving tale. Bringing to light a little-known moment in history, this thoughtful and beautifully told civil rights story will give kids tons to talk about.
Jan 09, 2015 Sally rated it it was amazing
Shelves: heritage, history
A wonderful story, and overview of voter registration, and the value of connections.
This book would be perfect to pair with Eve Bunting's "The Cart that Carried Martin." Bunting notes her inspiration was a newspaper article, I wonder if she has read this book.

Alexandria Hiam
In Gee's Bend, Alabama, Miz Pettway tells young Alex about the historic role her mule played in the struggle for civil rights led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Includes factual information about the community of Gee's Bend and Martin Luther King, Jr.
In Gee's Bend, Alabama, Miz Pettway tells young Alex about the historic role her mule played in the struggle for civil rights led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Includes factual information about the community of Gee's Bend and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jenna Renner
While young Alex is waiting outside a general store for his mother in Gee's Band, Alabama he has a conversation with a lady that lived there. She tells him about a mule that is munching away on greens in a field that is nearby. This was a very special mule because it was one of the mules that helped carry Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s casket down the city streets. I liked this book because Alex was learning history without even realizing it. This book also touches on the Civil Rights Movements. ...more
Chris Koeth
Feb 23, 2016 Chris Koeth rated it it was amazing
I thought this a great story, one I have never heard. I thought it was well done, and loved the pictures of the actual event in the back of the book.
Sep 25, 2012 Peacegal rated it really liked it
Shelves: humane-education
This is a wonderful and touching book about Belle, a mule who participated in the civil rights movement. Readers can almost feel the Southern heat as they are transported back to 1963, when Belle pulls the cart that takes her family to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak, and later, to vote for the first time. On a much sadder day, quiet and steady Belle becomes one of the mules who pull Dr. King's casket.

Belle is amply rewarded in her old age, as her caretaker plants garden greens especially for
Dec 09, 2014 Alice rated it it was amazing
Shelves: love-it
I was doing a catalog search so I could put out some Martin Luther King Jr ( MLK for short) books (I am a children's librarian). So I did a search and of course the regular MLK books come up but there were a few I couldn't find on the shelf because they didn't seem 'obviously' MLK related. This one was one of them.

A mule? HOW ON EARTH was this going to be MLK story?
Instead I found a lovely TRUE story about this mule and how it related to the MLK life, mission, and DREAM!!

Very well done. Pictures
During pivotal moments during the Civil Rights era, the people of Gee's Bend and their steady mules proved their worth over and over again. Alex, a young boy waiting outside a store front for his mother, meets an old lady who shares one of these stories with him. Alex learns of the people of Gee's Bend determination to vote despite the opposition. He also learns that after Dr. King's passing, two mules from Gee's Bend pulled his casket through the streets of Atlanta.
I loved that this book highl
Mar 17, 2012 Licia rated it it was amazing
I never knew I could be so emotionally invested in a mule, especially after one tried to take me down in my childhood. Being a city kid, I didn't know you shouldn't walk behind mules.
This book mentions the Gee's Bend quilts and MLK Jr., what's not to love. This book is about communities having strength and endurance, especially in hard times, especially in the face of prejudice, working together to pull through for the greater good. Belle and Ada, two mules from Gee's Bend, played a role in our
This is the remarkable true story of a mule who was part of the Civil Rights movement in the American south. Some people know that mules were used to pull the hearse of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but this is the story of why, and why those particular mules. It is told from the viewpoint of the mule's owner, a woman who had lived through those turbulent times. She tells the mule's story to a young boy who is visiting the small community of Gee's Bend, after he wonders why the mule is given the ...more
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Calvin Alexander Ramsey is a playwright, photographer, and painter. He adapted one of his plays for print as RUTH AND THE GREEN BOOK, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Calvin Alexander Ramsey lives in Atlanta.
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