Up Before Daybreak: Cotton and People in America

  • Up Before Daybreak: Cotton and People in America

Scholastic Nonfiction
Ages 9-12

ALA Notable

Carter G. Woodson Honor Award

In UP BEFORE DAYBREAK, acclaimed author Deborah Hopkinson captures the voices of the forgotten men, women, and children who worked in the cotton industry in America over the centuries. The voices of the slaves who toiled in the fields in the South, the poor sharecroppers who barely got by, and the girls who gave their lives to the New England mills spring to life through oral histories, archival photos, and Hopkinson's engaging narrative prose style. These stories are amazing and often heartbreaking, and they are imbedded deep in our nation's history.


From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 4-8-Making excellent use of primary sources (even noting when these sources may be less than accurate) and extended with black-and-white photos and period reproductions, this excellent work gives a detailed picture of the effect of cotton production on the social structure of the United States. From 1607, when the earliest English settlers arrived in Virginia, cotton was among the plants grown in colonial gardens. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in England, the demand for it increased, and the southern colonies found it lucrative to step up production. That cotton culture was part and parcel of the slave system becomes clear in this thoughtfully composed volume. Hopkinson also considers the young women who flocked to Lowell, MA, and the surrounding area to work in the textile factories. After the Civil War, the southern economy remained dependent on cotton, trading the slave system for a sharecropping system, and moving many of the mills to the south. Following workers' histories up through the Great Depression, the final chapter discusses child labor in the past and present. This informative work extends titles such as Arthur John L'Hommedieu's From Plant to Blue Jeans (Scholastic Library, 1998). A first-rate report and research source.-Ann Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WA Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Gr. 5-8. The author of Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements (2003) here explains to middle-graders how "the story of cotton . . . is like a thread that stretches far back into America's past." In unraveling that thread from the industrial revolution to the 1950s demise of the Lowell cotton mills, Hopkinson discusses the history and sociology of king cotton, frequently emphasizing the children who labored under slave masters, endured dead-end mill jobs, or helped sharecropping parents claw out a living. Stories of real people, such as mill girl Lucy Larcom who escaped the "incessant clash" of the looms to become a famous poet, sharply focus the dramatic history, as do arresting archival photos of stern youngsters manipulating hoes, cotton sags, or bobbins. Neither too long nor too dense, this won't intimidate students reluctantly tackling research projects, and teachers and children alike will welcome the concluding list of suggested readings for youth, the scholarly bibliography, and thorough endnotes. Rarely have the links between northern industry, southern agriculture, slavery, war, child labor, and poverty been so skillfully distilled for this audience. Jennifer Mattson Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved