Sitting in front of the town's general store, Ms. Pettway explains to Alex why Belle the mule is allowed to browse freely in her garden. The mule is revered in the little farm town of Gee's Bend, Alabama, for her role in the civil rights movement. In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Gee’s Bend to speak, encouraging everyone assembled to register to vote. People from Gee’s Bend took the ferry to Camden across the river in order to register. Belle helped to convey citizens from Gee's Bend all the way around - the long way - after racist ferry operators closed the ferry to the people who wanted to register to vote.
Belle is especially revered in the town because she is one of the two mules that served to honor Dr. King's wish that mules from Gee's Bend pull the farm wagon that would hold his burial casket. King had visited Gee’s Bend on several occasions. Community members from Gee’s Bend traveled elsewhere to march in protest with him. Based on a true story, this picture book portrays one moment in the American civil rights movement. The story was passed on to the author by the Reverend James E. Orange, who worked with Dr. King and remembered his connection with the community of Gee’s Bend.
Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend