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  • February 2011
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What Young People Can Do

I don’t know about you, but what I knew about the civil rights movement before last Monday could have been summed up in three short words: Not very much. Now that I am reading up on civil rights leaders (Bob Moses, Martin Luther King) as well as civil rights initiatives (the Freedom Rides, Freedom Summer) and the civil rights violations that were rampant in the United States (Mississippi Burning), I am asking myself over and over, Why didn’t I know this? Who else doesn’t know this? Why don’t people know about this?!

When I was younger, in middle and high school, all of the “heroes” that we studied in school were older than I was. I thought that I could wait to take risks and to stand up for a cause that I believed in. Now I realize that the participants in the civil rights movement were young, younger than I was then (The Little Rock Nine) and younger that I am now (Freedom Summer Volunteers). I believe that we can learn a lot from history and from the example of others, and what I am learning now is that you are never too young to “be the change you want to see in the world” (Gandhi).

Listen:

Oh Freedom Over Me by John Biewin:

“In the summer of 1964, about a thousand young Americans, black and white, came together in Mississippi for a peaceful assault on racism. “They had to be prepared to go to jail, they had to be prepared to be beaten, and they had to be prepared to be killed,” says Freedom Summer veteran Hollis Watkins. It came to be known as Freedom Summer, one of the most remarkable chapters in the Southern Civil Rights movement.

http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/oh_freedom/

Read:

Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas

When University of Michigan sophomore Celeste Tyree travels to Mississippi to volunteer with the Civil Rights movement, she’s assigned to help register voters in the already infamous town of Pineyville. While Celeste befriends several members of the community, there are also those who are threatened by her and the change she represents. Finding inner strength as she helps lift the veil of oppression, Celeste prepares her adult students for their showdown with the county registrar while struggling herself with loneliness, a worried father in Detroit, and her burgeoning feelings for Ed Jolivette, a young man also in Mississippi for the summer. (Product Description)

A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg

IN KUCKACHOO, MISSISSIPPI, 1963, Addie Ann Pickett worships her brother Elias and follows in his footsteps by attending the black junior high school. But when her careless act leads to her brother’s disappearance and possible murder, Addie Ann, Mama, and Uncle Bump struggle with not knowing if he’s dead or alive. Then a good deed meant to unite Kuckachoo sets off a chain of explosive events. Addie Ann knows Old Man Adams left his land to the white and black people to plant a garden and reap its bounty together, but the mayor denies it. On garden picking day, Addie Ann’s family is sorely tested. Through tragedy, she finds the voice to lead a civil rights march all her own, and maybe change the future for her people. (Product Description)

A Summer of Kings by Han Nolan

“It’s 1963 and fourteen-year-old Esther Young is looking for excitement. Cursed with a lack of talent in a family filled with artistic types, Esther vows to get some attention by initiating a summer romance with a black teen accused of murdering a white man in Alabama.

King-Roy Johnson shows up on Esther’s doorstep that summer, an angry young man who feels betrayed by the nonviolent teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. Sent north by his mother to escape a lynch mob, he meets a follower of Malcolm X’s who uses radical teachings about black revolution to fuel King-Roy’s anger and frustration. But with each other’s help, both Esther and King-Roy learn the true nature of integrity and find the power to stand up for what is right and true.” (Product Description).

Freedom Summer by Bruce Watson (Non-Fiction)

“Using in- depth interviews with participants and residents, Watson brilliantly captures the tottering legacy of Jim Crow in Mississippi and the chaos that brought such national figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pete Seeger to the state. Freedom Summer presents finely rendered portraits of the courageous black citizens-and Northern volunteers-who refused to be intimidated in their struggle for justice, and the white Mississippians who would kill to protect a dying way of life.” (From Product Description)

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