This uplifting picture book for children from eight through twelve uses the Beatitudes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in the Bible as a backdrop for a free-verse poem by Carole Boston Weatherford about the quest of African Americans for freedom. She identifies God's presence ("I was with . . . ) with those aboard slave ships bound for America and with Barack Obama as he took the oath of office as the first black President of the United States. In between, Weatherford and illustrator Tim Ladwig salute the many heroes and leaders in the civil rights movement including Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Emmett Till, the Freedom Riders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ruby Bridges, Fannie Lou Hammer, and others.
In her poem, God's presence is with African Americans in the drum beat of U.S. Colored Troops, in the microphone that Marian Anderson uses to sing spirituals on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in the shoes of those who boycotted the buses in Montgomery, and in the hand that shook the tambourine when Mississippi political organizer Fannie Lou Hamer breathed song into the struggle. Weatherford ends the book with this poetic stanza:
I was with your ancestors and I will be with your offspring,
standing on the side of justice.
Even now, I am with the downtrodden
and with those who seek uplift.
I am holy water in the stream of humanity.
Drink, bathe, and be free.