Follow Chester! A College Football Team Fights Racism and Makes History

Follow Chester! A College Football Team Fights Racism and Makes History

  • 1699

Coming September 17, 2019. Pre-order today!

By: Gloria Respress-Churchwell / Illustrated by: Laura Freeman

"We've already won."

Chester Pierce broke racial barriers when, in 1947, he joined his Harvard football team to play against the University of Virginia. At that time, black people were not allowed to sit at lunch counters, they had to use separate entrances, and they weren’t allowed to play college football against white players.

Chester’s team didn’t care about those laws. Amid dropped jaws, jeering, and booing, Chester played and his teammates followed his lead.

Laura Freeman’s expressive illustrations create an atmosphere of bold moves and a tide of crimson togetherness that could not be stopped.

Based on a true story.

"Duty and Courage are often side by side in a war fighting indifference and cowardice. Children snatched from their families at the border; millions being murdered in the Holocaust; the enslaved kidnapped and killed; segregated and denied. Chester and his team, including Robert Kennedy, fought segregation against the University of Virginia and lost the football game but upheld the Constitution and the Bible that all people are created equal. Good for all of us who are willing to Follow Chester. What a wonderful story to share with all our youngsters."
—Nikki Giovanni, poet

Download and listen to the music and audio play curated by the author to complement this story.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Gloria Respress-Churchwell, author

Gloria Respress-Churchwell is a co-contributor of the Robert Churchwell Journalism Collection to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Follow Chester! is Churchwell's first picture book. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Laura Freeman, illustrator

Laura Freeman has illustrated more than twenty children’s books, including Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly and Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal. Laura lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Awards & Honors:

Coming Soon!

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

It takes tremendous courage to make history. At 8, Chester Pierce saved his younger brother when he fell in a well, becoming a hero in his small New York town. He grew up loving football, basketball, and music. He learned to play multiple instruments and even became the first black senior-class president of his high school. Despite his principal's doubts, Chester applied to Harvard and was accepted, growing his confidence. While there, Chester played varsity football. In 1947, his team was scheduled to play the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where Jim Crow forbade Chester to play. But the coach knew a change was coming, so he told Chester to "get ready." Chester knew "that being the first black person to do something was never easy" but that the challenge would be worth it. Despite on-campus racism, Chester's teammates believed Jim Crow laws were wrong. They devised an off-the-field play they called "Follow Chester!" and determined that they would stick with him as a team, bolstering his confidence. Chester and his team faced a record-breaking crowd and played as hard as they could. Telling the tale simply, Respress-Churchwell does not shy away from direct statements about Chester's emotions and challenges. In Freeman's illustrations, Chester's facial expressions are pensive early in the story, but as he gains confidence, they become more determined.This straightforward sports tale will encourage readers to face adversity head-on.


ISBN: 978-1-58089-835-5

ISBN: 978-1-63289-723-7 EPUB

ISBN: 978-1-63289-724-4 PDF

For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 6-9
Page count: 32
8 1/2 x 11

If you like this book, you’ll enjoy these:
Waiting for Pumpsie
Long-Armed Ludy and the First Women's Olympics