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Evelyn Coleman, Author
In 1987, Evelyn Coleman was the first African American in North Carolina Arts Council's ten year history to win one of their $5,000 fiction fellowships. Coleman recently received the Atlanta’s Mayor’s Fellowship for $5,000 for achievement in children’s literature and was nominated in three categories for Georgia Author of the Year.

Evelyn Coleman’s children’s books, The Riches of Oseola McCarty, To Be a Drum, White Socks Only, The Glass Bottle Tree and The Foot Warmer and the Crow have garnered much recognition including a Parents Choice Honor Book, American Booksellers Association’s Pick of the Lists for ‘96, Notable Children’s Books in Social Studies, a Children’s Book of the Year by Bank Street Child Study Committee, a Publisher’s Weekly 1996 Cuffie Award, and Smithsonian named White Socks Only, as the Most Outstanding Children’s Book Title for 1996. To Be a Drum earned a pointed Kirkus review. White Socks Only’s film rights were sold to Phoenix Films, Inc. and is being produced by Academy Award winner, Barbara Bryant. The Riches of Oseola McCarty was named a Smithsonian Notable Book of 1999 and a Carter G. Woodson Honor Book for 1999. To Be a Drum is included on the Children’s Literature Top Choice List for 1999. An adult short story, “A Salute to Mr. Scriber,” appears in the anthology, Men We Cherish, Viking, ‘98. Her next adult thriller, Bloody Water is scheduled for release with Simon & Schuster spring of 2000. Coleman also has two young adults books coming out from S&S and the Pleasant Company.

Publisher’s Weekly says Evelyn Coleman knows how to keep the pages turning in her inventive, funny, assured debut thriller, What A Woman’s Gotta Do. An option for What a Woman’s Gotta Do has been sold to Mimi Leder, the Academy Award winning producer of The Peacemaker and Deep Impact. Coleman’s adult fiction and non_fiction appears in many magazines and newspapers. She is a frequent lecturer and workshop leader on many topics for schools, Universities, churches, writing groups and conferences throughout the United States. Before her writing career she was a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and stress management trainer.

Freedom Train by Evelyn Coleman
Clyde Thomason is proud to have an older brother who guards the Freedom Train. It's 1947, and the train is traveling to all forty-eight states, carrying important documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Clyde is lucky that the train is stopping in Atlanta. In the segregated South the train will only stop at cities that agree to integrate the crowds lining up to glimpse its famous contents. Clyde has been chosen to recite the Freedom Pledge, but he's afraid that he'll chicken out. It doesn't help that he's the favorite target of the class bully. When the bully tries to beat him up, Clyde is shocked that an African-American boy, William, comes to his rescue. He's even more shocked that William's family lives in the rich—and white—part of town. But why is he so surprised? And why can't he be open about his friendship with William? When William's family is threatened, Clyde must make a choice: Will he have the courage to speak out to protect William's freedom? Evelyn Coleman paints a touching, often humorous picture of the 1940s South. Based on the real journey of the Freedom Train, this is the inspirational story of a young boy's awakening to the injustices around him—and to the idea that things could change.
--Margaret K. McElderry Books 2008
Ages 9-12

A young girl innocently drinks from the "whites only" fountain, thinking that she had to do so standing in her white socks, only to come face to face with the harsh realities of racism.

he Riches of Oseola McCarty
Retired laundress, Oseola McCarty donated a portion of her life savings to the University of Southern Mississippi to endow a scholarship fund for needy students. True story.


A Little Story About Evelyn Coleman

I was born in my grandmother’s house in the mill town of Burlington, North Carolina. When I was about one –year-old my grandfather gave me a puppy named Mopsy that I loved dearly. Later that year we moved out of my grandmother’s house – next door to a house my father built for us. Until, I graduated from high school, my grandmother walked across the drive-way around to the back of our house and knocked on my bedroom window to wake my brother and I up for breakfast. I usually stumbled sleepily outside, up the back porch steps to her warm kitchen where I ate my breakfast and then went back home to take a bath and dress. We had a shower but we didn’t take them. I’m not sure why.

My grandmother sat my brother, myself and our cousin, Sneezie, on her lap and fed us oatmeal with a spoon every morning. That is until my father finally asked her to stop, saying we were too big. We probably were. By that time we’d outgrown her lap and were sitting around her on stools. We didn’t care. We loved our grandmother, her name was Mary Sanders.

I lived three short blocks from school. And Mopsy always walked me to the edge of our yard. Sometimes the chickens that my grandmother raised walked with me too.

My brother and I were only ten months apart. It was exciting for us to tell other children we were the same age from May until July. His name is Edward Joel but everyone calls him Eddie Joe, even today. We were inseparable as children.

We played every day, together with our neighbors, who were just like family, the Day children, Little Troy, my cousin Sneezie and others. Back then it was very safe in our neighborhood because everyone knew us and protected us. Actually, for my brother and I, it was like a fairy tale, because until we were around twelve or thirteen we were the only children in our large extended family. And many of my mother’s relatives lived on that one street.

Because of them living there with us, I never had to eat anything I didn’t want. I just went from one house to another to eat lunch or dinner. My whole family loved for me to tell them stories. On weekends they’d all sit around listening to me make up adventures that I’m sure they knew didn’t happen. My brother loved my stories so much that he would pay me his lunch money and all his deserts to hear them.
We played all day and all night during the summer. We could be cruel though. But I don’t think we knew it. Because, I remember we used to tear the tails off lightning bugs, and wear them like rings. Yuk. We didn’t watch much television. Of course, they didn’t have color televisions then or many programs for children. The first program I remember just for children was called Howdy Doodie.

I was brought up to think that boys and girls could do the same things. Whenever my father taught my brother some skill, he also taught me. If my mother taught me, my brother was included. Neither of us ever learned to cook, so I suppose that’s why I don’t cook today. I loved the outdoors as a child. Our father, whose name was Edward Jeffrey, but everyone called him Jeff, and Mr. Dewey Day would build us all kinds of playhouses and spectacular contraptions to play on. Our mother, Annie, was a teacher, so she always played games with us and taught us songs. My favorite song was always, “Froggy Goes a Courtin.”

I learned to read in the first grade. I loved reading more than ice cream, which was pretty hard to imagine since I once ate a half-gallon all by myself. I enjoyed school and my favorite subjects were English, science and reading. In my family, girls were accepted to be just as smart, strong and independent as boys. I always had a lot of friends, boys as well as girls, who had many different interest, because, just like now I loved all people. We were some really happy children back then. I hope you’re happy too.

I have two adult daughters, one granddaughter, a husband and a dog that acts a lot like Mospy. We are all happy today, living in Atlanta, Georgia, where I do nothing much but write all day.

by Evelyn Coleman

In the age-old tradition of “story,”good must triumph over evil. First and foremost, as in all solid storytelling White Socks Only revolves around the heroic archetype. Remove the color/race issues from the story and what you have is a “bad” guy vs. a good guy.

When White Socks Only was read to a class of third graders at the elementary school on Gallaudet University’s campus one hearing impaired caucasian boy jumped up shouting with his fingers, “That’s me. That little girl is me.” He understood that this book was not just about black and white but any form of prejudice. Not only did he transcend the issue of race but gender. This, of course, is the message I wish the book to convey, that, and a sense of triumph for anyone abused in a situation.

The book also opens discussion about the African American community in the south in the years prior to the civil rights movement. It is clear that everyone in the black community is watching after this little girl. And any misstep will be reported by her mother’s friends.

It is also one of the few books that allows a glimpse into the horrific experiences of African Americans during the civil rights era of non-violent protest. In this story the black people band together, yet they do not attack.

A discussion about “telling on someone” could follow the reading of White Socks Only. I am a firm believer that children should be encouraged to become “tattle-tales” I know that some teachers suggest children tend to their own affairs and not tell on others. But it is important for children to participate as a part of a community that looks out for one another. And apart of that responsibility is to not remain silent when you see someone do something wrong. This also will help children feel free to tell when abusive behavior is inflicted or directed toward them from either another child or an adult. Secretive behavior often breeds abusive situations.

Your class might also look at weather conditions as a part of the discussion. How hot does it have to be to fry an egg on the sidewalk. In some areas of the country a demonstration is certainly possible. Of course, we won’t encougage them to eat the fried egg. Hmm. Maybe if it were fried chocolate I’d agree though.

Another aspect of the book is looking at “the chicken man” as a mythological figure. It is important to point out to children that the chicken man represents justice but isn’t real. The fact that the “chicken man” gives the little girl a feather from his hat may also be used for discussion related to totems.

A discussion on the differences between racism and prejudice might help children relate it to the present. I think that using some exercises with the children to showcase “what elements form prejudices or racism” would be enlightening. For instance maybe on a given day all children with green eyes must sit in the back of the room, or all children with blond hair must clean the blackboards, or all children with black hair get to speak first. There are many ways to get the idea of prejudice/racism across to students in an experiential manner that will benefit them greatly in their futures. I’d recommend letting parents know ahead of time in some areas of the country.

White Socks Only also provides an opportunity to explain and explore the use of metaphor and analogy in literature. I think children get the idea about white socks right away. And, much like the little girl in the photo, can relate to why she presumes it’s her shoes she must remove, since she has on all white clothes.

Here are a few more discussion issues:

  • How is a picture book put together?
  • The fact that there is no communication between illustrator and author. For instance I have no idea why the illustrator put the maroonish shawl on the old woman when the text describes her as having on all black.
  • Have them explore why I might have made the story funny in the beginning, sad in the middle and then happy at the end.
I hope you’ll find all these suggestions helpful. And feel free to contact me any time at:
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