Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers * Michael G. Long
I received an ARC copy of this ebook from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I have always loved and appreciated Fred Rogers as a gentle soul, who wanted us to love each other and treat each other with kindness and compassion. Everything I learned only made me appreciate him more--and this book, opening my eyes to his Christianity-based politics, was the icing on the cake.
Even as a child, I knew Rogers' inclusion of Francois Clemmons, the African-American police officer as a Mister Rogers' Neighborhood went against the social grain. From this book, I learned Clemmons was the first African-American with a regular role on a children's television series, joining before Northern Calloway (David), Matt Robinson (Gordon), and Loretta Long (Susan) on Sesame Street. I also learned Clemmons' hiring was a deliberate--loving, but deliberate--act, especially the wading pool scenes with him. Those shared soaking scenes were in direct protest to segregated swimming pools, and violent responses to integrated pools.
Mister Rogers resisted pressure from certain cast members to be more visibly and aggressively political, because they felt his responsibility was to his children and family audience; his neighborhood needed to be a quiet, safe place of learning, the one place in their lives where protests were not taking place, where no one was shouting, and where no one was making frightening ultimatums. Michael Long's book touched me, as a child of the '70's, in so many ways. This book would make a nice addendum to high school and college courses covering 1960's and 1970's cultural and social history. Highly recommended.
interview with Clemmons on NPR StoryCorps