I Have Heard of a Land
by Joyce Carol Thomas
This book takes place in Oklahoma in the late 1800s, a time during which many people were moving west, including many freed slaves. All pioneers could own land in the Oklahoma territory, including women. There are no real characters in the text of the book, but the illustrations portray black families enjoying their lives in this new land. Joyce Carol Thomas grew up in Oklahoma and is descended from a group of westward pioneers like the ones described in the book.
The text takes the form of a poem. There is no punctuation and the phrase "I have heard of a land" is repeated at the beginning of every page. I think that because of this, the book could be integrated into a poetry unit. There are two pages of higher level text at the back describing more about the historical period, and I think this could be a springboard for a social-justice unit about this historical time in the west. I think it would be interesting to explore the migration of freed male and female slaves to the west during this time period - the oppression they faced at home and the struggles and oppression they faced along the way, both in terms of being female and in terms of being freed black slaves. It would fall into the 3rd and 4th stages of social justice education: "Exploring Issues of Social Justice," and "Social Movements and Social Change."