Students will read Ralph Ellison's brilliant short story "Mr. Toussan" based on the same historical event about survival that is the subject of Lawrence's series and of his storybook with Walter Dean Myers. This will give the students an opportunity to compare how two authors and an artist "tell" the same historical event. Ellison sets his story in the South where two young black boys have just been chased across the street by a white man who does not want them picking up cherries that have fallen from his cherry tree. They are hurt and humiliated that this white man won't even allow them to have the cherries that are rotting on the ground. The whole of the story is their conversation in which the older of the two boys tells the younger the story told to him by his father about "Mr. Toussan'" (he is young and does not know that the hero's real name is Toussaint L'Ouverture) the black man who fought against white men for freedom, and although he was captured and died in prison in France, far away from his beloved Haiti, the revolt that he started succeeded, and the people of Haiti were freed from slavery. When the older boy has finished the story, it is clear that the young boy feels empowered and he suggests that maybe they should have another try at the cherries across the street. Ellison's story seems innocent, but couched in its
is the power of retelling a piece of history and the empowerment a father has given his son by telling him this piece of history. Much went into the crafting of this story, making it rich for exploration with students.