Let Them Play

By Margot Theis Raven, Illustrated by Chris Ellison; Sleeping Bear Press; 2005

Picture Book, Youth, Non-Fiction, includes Epilogue

Margot Theis Raven and Chris Ellison team together to document this compelling story of the realities of living in segregated South Carolina in 1955 for this baseball team. Ellison uses his amazing watercolor paintings to reveal the characters’ emotional highs and lows to completion this tale.

Shortly before this time, Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier. These 14 All Stars only wanted to play baseball and dreamed of well-groomed fields, homeruns and playing like Jackie. He was their hero.

The book jacket best describes the situation in South Carolina:

“There are 62 official Little League programs in South Carolina — all but one of the leagues is composed entirely of white players. The Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars, an all-black team, is formed in the hopes of playing in the state’s annual Little League Tournament. What should have been a time of enjoyment, however, turns sour when all of the other leagues refuse to play against them and even pull out of the program. As the only remaining Little League team in the state, Cannon Street was named state winner by default, giving the boys a legitimate spot in the Little League Baseball World Series held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. While the Cannon Street team is invited to the game as guests, they are not allowed to participate since they have not officially “played” and won their state’s tournament.”

This inspiring story shares an important message about equality and tolerance. As America’s favorite pastime, this tale emphasizes how challenges can be faced with dignity and honor. From the rallying cries of the fans at Williamsport shouting, “let them play,” these boys overlooked the disappointment, abandoned their Little League Baseball dream but kept that incredible moment in their hearts as they continued their lives. The “Epilogue” tells us how their resilience pays off when the Cannon Street All-Stars were recognized with a South Carolina 1995 State Champion banner on August 16, 2002.

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