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Love Is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement
Written by Sandra Neil Wallace | Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Diane Nash is sheltered by her parents from the segregation of the South that they had grown up in. During the Second World War, Diane is taken care of by her grandmother while her father joins the army and her mother takes a job. Her Grandmother Bolton is from Tennessee and showers her with love. “You are ‘more precious than all the diamonds in the world,'” she told Diane, and growing “up in the rhythm and glow of her love” Diane knew “it must be true.”
In high school kids of all colors learn together. Diane reads about segregation in textbooks, but it didn’t really touch her. Then she moves to Tennessee to attend Fisk University. Here, when her friends take her to a fair, Diane is confronted with the “sting of segregation” when she sees there are two restrooms: one labeled WHITE and the other COLORED. Her friends have grown up in this system; they tell her “to go along to get along,” but Diane “won’t follow rules if the rules are wrong.” The rhythms of her grandmother’s love and her pride in being “beautiful, honey brown” will not allow her to feel less than others.
In Nashville, Diane experiences the full indignation of segregation that demands separate water fountains and schools, back-of-the-bus seating, and—the worst for Diane—no eating at the lunch counter. She doesn’t want to be arrested for eating at a lunch counter, but neither does she want to let it go. Before each day of college classes, Diane and other students “pray and learn about change in a peaceful way.” They practice calmly sitting and ordering at a lunch counter, knowing that people may be rude, may push them off their stool, may throw sugar in their hair.
In February of 1960, Diane, now at twenty-one years old, leads a group of students to a lunch counter in Nashville. Their presence shocks the cooks and waitress, who drops plate after plate from her shaking hands. “Inside [Diane shakes] too. Hands sweating, never forgetting the danger, the fear of being arrested for ordering a sandwich.” Bravely, despite coffee burns and thrown sugar, Diane and the students hold sit ins at lunch counters across the city. And when Diane is arrested, there are hundreds of others to fill her seat.
After a bombing in April Diane, “quietly walking, without any talking… silently leads six-thousand marching feet to the beat of love” to meet the mayor, who at first says there is nothing he can do. Looking him in the eye, Diane asks him questions he cannot deny, and he admits that prejudice and segregation are wrong—even at the lunch counter. “At that moment, love scores. It soars as six thousand loving hands roar with applause.” And in May—Diane has just turned twenty-two—Nashville’s lunch counters are fully integrated. Martin Luther King Jr. congratulates her on her peaceful victory as she moves on to change the rules of bus travel with Freedom Rides, to uphold the “law of the land [that] says everyone is free to sit or stand together in a bus traveling across America.”
While the movement makes progress, even attracting the attention of the president, a Mississippi judge charges Diane “with putting Freedom Riders on a bus.” Before her trial, Diane, pregnant with her first child, writes a letter heard around the world that said “‘I believe that if I go to jail now, … it may help hasten that day when my child and all children will be free.'” Her case rivets the world as she chooses to go to jail instead of paying bail.
After she is released, Diane turns her attention to the issue of voting rights and the state of Alabama, where four young girls are killed in a bombing in a Birmingham church and “where Black people are denied the right to vote.” Following Diane’s example, thousands of adults and children choose jail over bail in protest of the injustice until the Civil Rights Act is signed by President Johnson in 1964 and a year after that when he “signs the 1965 Voting Rights Act to legally end racial discrimination that prevented Black people from voting.” But Diane Nash doesn’t stop there. She takes her message of peace and peaceful change across the country for fifty years, teaching young people “how love creates change.”
Extensive back matter includes an Author’s Note and an Illustrator’s Note about the work of Diane Nash; a detailed timeline from her birth to 2022, when she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom; a list of video interviews with Diane Nash, four other books for young readers; sources for quotes found in the story; and a selected bibliography. A photograph of Nash and three other students integrating a lunch counter in Nashville and another of Nash leading demonstrators to meet the mayor of Nashville are also included.
Compelling and moving, Sandra Neil Wallace’s lyrical storytelling about the life and work of Diane Nash rivets readers to this young woman’s courage, confidence, and conviction to overturn the injustice of segregation and inequality for Blacks. Punctuated with often-rhyming phrases, and sharp, short sentences Wallace’s text flows with a rhythm of urgency that perfectly conveys not only Nash’s resolve, but the stakes for the peaceful demonstrators and the atmosphere of the times.
Written in the third person, the story directly addresses Nash, but the repeated “you” also builds a chorus that reverberates in each reader’s heart, telling them that they are brave, that they are strong, and that they too can change the world with love. This format poignantly culminates on the last page. Here, Wallace changes the dynamic with a subtle turn of phrase that now directly embraces each reader, letting them know that Diane Nash worked for freedom “because she loved you even before you were born” and reminding them that “Love is fierce. Love is strong. Love is loud!”
Bryan Collier’s rich watercolor-and-collage illustrations draw readers in with their realistic depictions of Diane Nash as a baby and young girl cherished by her family, as a high school and university student, at the fair that changed the trajectory of her life, leading peaceful demonstrations at lunch counters and across the South, and crossing the country to bring her message to young people. Nash’s self-assurance, courage, and determination are evocatively expressed, and a full-page portrait of Diane looking out at the reader mirrors Wallace’s invitation for them to look into her eyes and see her love there.
Scraps of photographs are sprinkled here and there among the pages, providing a spark of recognition of the time and places depicted. But it is the cut paper elements that make certain images of people and objects jump off the page, working powerfully with Wallace’s text to make readers feel that they too are at the fair, at the lunch counter, joining the throng of marchers. Each page is a masterpiece of history and story that invites study, thoughtful contemplation, and action.
Absorbing, eloquent, and impactful, Love Is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement is biography at its best: a moving tribute Diane Nash set amid a far-reaching immersion in the time period. Love Is Loud belongs in every home, classroom, school, and public library collection to teach children about the contributions of Diane Nash as well as to remind them that vigilance and the work for freedom is an ever-ongoing pursuit.
Ages 4 – 8
Simon & Schuster | Paula Wiseman Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534451032
About the Author
Sandra Neil Wallace writes about people who break barriers and change the world. She is the author of several award-winning books for children, including Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, illustrated by Bryan Collier, which received the Orbis Pictus Book Award and was an ALA Notable Book. A former ESPN reporter and the first woman to host an NHL broadcast, she is the recipient of the Outstanding Women of New Hampshire Award and creates change as cofounder of The Daily Good, a nonprofit bringing twenty thousand free, culturally diverse foods to college students each year through its Global Foods Pantries. Visit Sandra at SandraNeilWallace.com.
About the Illustrator
Bryan Collier is a beloved illustrator known for his unique style combining watercolor and detailed collage. He is a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient for Trombone Shorty, Dave the Potter, Martin’s Big Words, and Rosa. His books have won many other awards as well, including six Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards. His recent books include By and By, Thurgood, The Five O’Clock Band, and Between the Lines. He lives in New York with his family. Visit him at BryanCollier.com.
Watch the Book Trailer for Love Is Loud!
World Read Aloud Day Activities
2022 Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony
Watch as Diane Nash is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in this White House video from July 7, 2022. You can find President Joe Biden’s remarks about Diane Nash at the 5:50 mark, and see her receive her medal at the 41:29 mark.
Love Is Loud Curriculum Guide
Teachers, educators, and homeschoolers can download an in-depth, 6-page Curriculum Guide for Love Is Loud full of a variety of ways for students to connect with the book and history from Sandra Neil Wallace’s website here.
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