Little Cliff and the Cold Place
by Clifton L. Taulbert
Discussion and Activities
For pre-reading ideas and background information on multiculturalism, see Around the World in 80 Books: A Multicultural Guide.
In this third Little Cliff story, Clifton Taulbert, author of Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, draws on memories of childhood in racially segregated Glen Allan, Mississippi in the 1950s. Using the illustration of Little Cliff's classroom, introduce the "Jim Crow" laws that enforced racial segregation in many Southern states from the late 19th century into the 1960s. Using Internet or library resources, have students list other public facilities, services, and activities in which these laws separated blacks from whites (e.g., transportation, restaurants, medical care, marriage, baseball, housing, etc.) Lead students in a discussion of the Civil Rights Movement initiated by southern blacks in the 1950s and 1960s to break prevailing patterns of racial segregation. Highlight the roles played by such figures as Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in spurring the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. After listening to Dr. King's historic "I Have a Dream" speech, have students write a posthumous letter to Dr. King expressing how his work and sacrifices have changed our world for the better.
Little Cliff's interest in the Arctic and Poppa Joe's clever way of bringing this faraway land to him exemplify Taulbert's nostalgic recollection of his loving childhood and upbringing, which allowed him to look out beyond the confines of his small town, despite the constraints of racism. Using a map, have students calculate how far Little Cliff's Mississippi hometown is from the snow-covered Arctic. Have them compare/contrast his home in the world of the warm Delta sun, river boats, chinaberry trees, and ice houses with that of an Inuit child living on the Arctic landscape with seasonal sunlight, igloos, dogsleds, tundras, ice-fishing, and the Northern Lights. Students may then paint Arctic landscapes, including plant and wildlife typical in this Land of the Midnight Sun.