Week-end Book Review: Black and White: A song that is a story about freedom to go to school together by David ArkinSunday, May 8th, 2011
David Arkin, text and illustrations, with introduction by Pete Seeger and musical score by Earl Robinson
Black and White: A song that is a story about freedom to go to school together
New Street Communications, 2011.
With an introduction by the beloved Pete Seeger, New Street Communications in Providence, Rhode Island, has reissued David Arkin’s also beloved 1966 illustrated text and music for the award-winning song, Black and White. Arkin, father of actor Alan Arkin, co-wrote the song with Earl Robinson in 1956 to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. the Board of Education, which outlawed segregation in American public schools. The song was a top-ten hit for the U.K. reggae group Greyhound in 1971 and reached the top of the U.S. charts in a 1972 version by Three Dog Night. The reissue of Arkin’s book is a slender unpaginated volume that treats each lyric line to its own black-and-white (naturally) illustration. Beginning with “the ink is black, the page is white,” the lyrics contrast, and bring together, black and white in simple images relevant to all school children.
“The world is black
The world is white
It turns by day
And it turns by night
It turns so each and everyone
Can take his station in the sun!”
Charcoal drawings accompanying the lyrics feature such images as black and white children, the nine judges with their black robes and white hair, the white chalk on the black board. At the end of the book, Robinson’s score is printed with the complete lyrics in verse form.
Along with Pete Seeger’s introduction, the front matter includes an explanation “About this book and the people who made it” (with the unfortunate grammatical error: “by he and …”). The beneficiary of all royalties on this publication, the Central Asia Institute, is also described briefly. CAI is the non-profit organization that funds Greg Mortenson‘s (Three Cups of Tea) admirable work to create schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Black and White is a moving and appropriate tribute to that work. Parents and teachers who know the song will be delighted to introduce it to their children and students through this inspiring little book, and it will doubtless win new fans among adults as well.