Study Guide

Tar Beach Race

By Faith Ringgold

Race

I could see our tiny rooftop, with Mommy and Daddy and Mr. and Mrs. Honey, our next-door neighbors, still playing cards [...] (3)

It's easy to miss if you're not paying attention, but all of the characters in Tar Beach are Black, which is awesome. That's pretty unusual for a children's book from the early 1990s. (It's even still unusual for children's books today.)

Me, Cassie Louise Lightfoot, only eight years old and in the third grade, and I can fly. (10)

Cassie doesn't let racism get her down. She knows that she can do anything.

That means I am free to go wherever I want for the rest of my life. (10)

Characters like Cassie's dad are understandably down about living in a super-racist society. But Cassie feels confident that nothing's going to hold her back.

Daddy took me to see the new union building he is working on. (11)

In the 1930s, it was still difficult for Black men to join unions. But they could certainly build union buildings.

But he still can't join the union because Grandpa wasn't a member. (13)

Steel workers like Cassie's dad were super-important to the history of unions in the Labor Movement. They had to fight to become members because of racist policies.

Then it won't matter that he's not in their old union, or whether he's colored or a half-breed Indian, like they say. (14)

This time, racism is much more obvious.

I have told him it's very easy, anyone can fly. All you need is somewhere to go that you can't get to any other way. (24)

Cassie tells her brother that any obstacle can be overcome. It's good advice, because racism in the 1930s was pretty horrific.