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Freedom in Congo Square

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,477 ratings  ·  606 reviews
Chosen as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2016, this poetic, nonfiction story about a little-known piece of African American history captures a human’s capacity to find hope and joy in difficult circumstances and demonstrates how New Orleans' Congo Square was truly freedom’s heart.

Mondays, there were hogs to slop,

mules to train, and logs to chop.

Slavery was no wa
Hardcover, 34 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by little bee books
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  2,477 ratings  ·  606 reviews

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Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Freedom in Congo Square is a very colorful, rhyming children's book about slaves in Louisiana. They're enduring all the hard work of the week and counting down the days to Sunday, when they can be free for a time to celebrate at Congo Square.

We especially enjoyed the colorful illustrations in the book, mostly the pictures of them singing, dancing, and celebrating as they relish their culture and keep it alive.

I found the forward in the front of the book very interesting and eye-opening. The au
What a book experience. You can feel the rhythm pulse in this book, you can feel the heat and the oppression pound down, down, and then on Sunday's, you can feel the release and the moments of freedom.

The art work is a wonder in this story. I love the artwork and it's simplicity. It conveys energy and feeling and a sense of music. It makes the story.

This is about the birthplace of Jazz, of cultures preserving their heritage and half a day that slaves can feel alive again and their own. They danc
Abby Johnson

In rhythmic, rhyming text Carole Boston Weatherford takes the reader through a week in the lives of slaves, touching on different work slaves did while counting down to Sunday when they would be allowed an afternoon off. Congo Square in New Orleans was the place where slaves could gather, socialize and make music together on Sundays when the law declared that everyone was free from work. A fo
While Carol Boston Weatherford's lyrical text does present and depict the work-heavy day and night toiling life of slavery in historic New Orleans, when I am reading the verses presented in and by Freedom in Congo Square, I for one do not think that the author's words really all that much specifically show the horrors of African American slavery (as I have read similar such descriptions and accounts with regard to Mediaeval feudalism, European child labour etc.). Yes, Weatherford's poetry does s ...more
Barb Middleton
This story is written in couplets and as a read aloud it carries its own beat while presenting the oppression of slavery and the freedom of blacks gathering at Congo Square in New Orleans to share their music and culture. One afternoon a week, slaves had the afternoon off and they danced and played music expressing themselves and creating Jazz music.

The folk style illustrations are two dimensional on the pages showing slaves' oppressive life. The flat drawing of the slaves sleeping in rows on t
Vernon Area Public Library KIDS
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Kindergarten-2nd grade
Weatherford and Christie depict the days of the week for U.S. slaves and builds anticipation for Sunday, the one afternoon that slaves were allowed to commune. The artwork is unique and full of movement. The author includes a forward AND an Author's Note to elaborate on the relatively sparse--yet poetic--text. A well-written introduction to the inhumanity of slavery without being graphic and still celebrating the shared cultural get-together of one afternoon. A stellar success.

Reviewed by: Miss
Feb 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked it, but there was something odd I just can't put my finger on. I really liked the explanations at the beginning and end of the book - the historical info was fascinating. The illustrations were beautiful, evocative of classic American folk art. Even the verses of the story were well done. But when it all came together, it was either too simple or too complex for one book (maybe because the poem is written at a level so far below the introduction and back matter?). At any rate, I still hi ...more
I've never been to New Orleans, and now I want to. This story invites me to see the history of Congo Square, and celebrate those slaves and non-slaves, after six days of hard work, who met and made music, met and danced, met and helped each other prepare for the next hard week. Congo Square is located in Louis Armstrong Park, is now on the National Register of Historic Places and according to the foreword by Freddi Williams Evans, a Congo Square expert, we are all invited!
The story told about
Wow! I've heard a lot about this picture book because it's won both the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Honor. This goes beyond the usual confines of a picture book. It examines the one place that slaves and free blacks were able to spend time together in New Orleans. The artwork was not only dynamic, but told in such a captivating way that I learned a lot about the history of Congo Square. While I won't delve into the historical aspects of the book, I do recommend this as a book for ...more
Edward Sullivan
Superb illustrations by Christie and vivid rhyming couplets by Weatherford tell the true, little-known story of how Sunday was set aside for slaves in New Orleans to gather together and remember their African heritage. They were allowed to assemble in Congo Square, now a part of Louis Armstrong Park and on the National Register of Historic Places. Beautiful and evocative.
Linda Lipko
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Located at the Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans, rich in history, this is a story of Congo Square, in slave time, this was a place of luxury, a place and time where the slave can let the music take him o r her wherever they dreamed. In Congo Park one could be free from rank and cruelty.

Unique in concept, the black slave could have one day off, and that day was Sunday. But, sadly as time went on, there was only one place where the black slave on New Orleans could congregate, and that place wa
Age: Kindergarten-2nd grade
History: Slavery

Weatherford and Christie depict the days of the week for slaves and builds anticipation for Sunday, the one afternoon that slaves were allowed to commune. The artwork was unique and full of movement without being frightening. (Lately, I have seen so much unusual picture book artwork that is nightmare-inducing, so I'm glad to see that it can be done.) The author includes a forward AND an Author's Note to elaborate on the relatively sparse--yet poetic--te
They rejoiced as if they had no cares;
half day, half free in Congo Square.

Things to remember:
-Thought provoking "half free..."
-end pages: African pattern
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
In Louisiana, slaves had a day off from work on Sundays. In New Orleans, after 1817, they could only gather in one place on this day, an open field known as Congo Square. There, the slaves could play African music, dance, play, and sing. As the author says in an Afterword, “For a few hours every Sunday, Congo Square gave slaves a taste of freedom.”

The book begins with a Foreword by a historian about Congo Square (which is now located within Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans).

Then the author us
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
First reviewed on Literaritea

These pictures amaze me more every time I read this book! (1/31/19)

This book came out early January and set the bar high for nonfiction picture books. While books about the slavery experience in the U.S. are nothing new, Freedom in Congo Square highlights a unique part of that history. A lengthy foreword by Congo Square historian Freddi Evans and a thorough author’s note at the end explain the historical and artistic significance of this public square in Louisiana fo
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This story was told in a poetic manner that explained how slaves suffered and the pain they endured throughout the week. The enslaved people would count down the days until they could meet in Congo Square and dance, drum, and sing. I found this picture book on the Caldecott Honor Book page and after reading it discovered that the illustrations were so in tune with the words that flooded the page. I felt that the illustrations played a huge part in setting the mood and tone of the story. The pict ...more
I'd never heard of Congo Square and really enjoyed this poetic book that introduces children to the hope and joy that slaves felt as they gathered in Congo Square to talk, sing, play instruments, share news, sell goods, and dance. I appreciate that it doesn't ignore the evils and horrors of slavery but it also shows the triumph of the human spirit and how the opportunity to gather gave them a bit of hope and something to look forward to. The illustrations are bright and portray the grinding diff ...more
Poetic text takes readers through the days of the week and the tasks that need to be done mirrored by a countdown to Sunday, a day of rest, spent in Congo Square.

A foreword, glossary, and author's note give readers the necessary background information to get the most out of this text.

Mixed media artwork is haunting and really helps reveal the emotions tied to the time spent in Congo Square as evidenced by the vibrant colors and the expressive body movement of the gatherers (i.e. arms extended, l
Kellee Moye
Reviewed at

I found this book to be touching and beautiful and sad. Books about slavery always make me so ashamed of our past, so they are hard to read yet so important. I think Weatherford’s story really captures the brutal conditions of slavery in the South but also the freedom that was felt on the one free day in Louisiana. Also, I personally like rhyming couplets, so I thought it had a great sing-songy quality. And let’s not forget the illustrations. T
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was all around amazing. The illustrations were captivating and so delicate. The story had a wonderful look into slavery. The enslaved people of New Orleans, Louisiana would gather in Congo Square on Sundays, their half day off. The informational text from Weatherford, and Evans, a historian and Congo Square expert, that went along with the book, was the highlight for me. The author and illustrator captured a snapshot of what blossomed from Congo Square during this time. Many things can ...more
Brenda Kahn
With all the hub-bub about another picture book's inaccurate depiction of slavery for young people, why is no one trumpeting this quiet gem? Powerful, spare text depicts the hope of many a slave in the New Orleans environs that Sunday and their half day of rest will come and the promises that taste of freedom brings. Magnificently illustrated. ...more
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. I learned about Congo Square, and it tells the story - the whole story - in an understandable manner, with extra information for adults or older children reading the book. The illustrations are beautiful and evocative. They work on a lot of levels for me. They just capture such movement. I absolutely love this book.
Jan 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Told in verse, this is a celebration of the human spirit to still find reasons to laugh and play, dance and make music. I would think it's necessary to do so to endure and to have hope. The back matter includes more information about the place and a glossary. ...more
Wasn't a fan of the art and some of the rhymes were uneven, but what a terribly interesting topic!!! I'm glad someone wrote about it because I wouldn't have known about it otherwise... ...more
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! 1st reading 6/1/16
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lovely, bright, flowing illustrations go well with the rhyming text in this interesting book!
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and outstandingly illustrated rhyming story of plantation, slaves, their chores, and their weekly gathering rejoicing song, dance, and freedom.
I loved this and will be purchasing it for the grand kids
Reviewed for Mock Caldecott Awards. I loved the idea of the information presented but didn't like the illustrations that went along with it. I thought that the drawings of humans were very flat and had very strange proportions. I did think the color palette was lovely. My favorite parts of the book were the Forward and the Author's Note which gave more detailed history about Congo Square in New Orleans. ...more
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mock-caldecott
I felt weird reading about slaves doing backbreaking chores and looking at illustrations of whippings and dogs going after a runaway, set to a sing-song rhyme. The tone juxtaposition was jarring. Also, to share with kids, you'd need to read the front and back matter so they knew what the heck was going on. Great ideas here, but I'm not a huge fan of the execution. ...more
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Carole Boston Weatherford is a children's book author and poet who "mines the past for family stories, fading traditions, and forgotten struggles." A number of Weatherford's books tell the stories of African-American historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Jesse Owens, and Billie Holiday. Other books recount historical events such as the Greensboro Sit-ins and the bombing of the Sixteenth Stree ...more

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