Summer is typically a time of fun and freedom, but for the people of Mississippi, in 1964, summer was a time of turmoil. These books help children of various ages understand the struggle for freedom faced by blacks and the whites who gave their time and even their lives to promote this freedom.
“Freedom Summer Murders” by Don Mitchell, 2014, Scholastic Press, 250 pages, ages 11 and up.
A sense of equity and caring for others brought three young men to Neshoba County, Mississippi in the summer of 1964. Unfortunately, these young men would not return home. Their efforts at helping black Americans register to vote in the presidential election of 1964 cost them their lives at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. This informational book tells the story of the lives and deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Hatred lead to their deaths, but their work was not in vain, as the media attention on their death brought to light the injustices to black Americans and inspired support for equal voting rights for all. The author, Don Mitchell, delves into the lives of the young men in the first half of the book, and then turns attention to those who participated in or facilitated the murders. Little detail is given to the act of murder, rather the emphasis is placed on the people and the context, making the book appropriate for middle and adolescent readers.
“Freedom Summer” by Deborah Wiles, Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue, 2001, Antheneum, ages 4-8.
In “Freedom Summer” the story of freedom and equity begins with the friendship of Joe and John Henry, two young boys, one white and one black. Because of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the world in their small Southern town is changing. The new law gives blacks and whites access to public places, like the library, the movie theater, and the swimming pool. Some of the town folks do not take kindly to the new ways. This is the story of hope and change as two young boys lead the way. Beautiful acrylic paintings portray the characters’ emotions as a reflection of the inner struggles faced by blacks and whites of the time.
“Revolution” by Deborah Wiles, 2014, Scholastic, 544 pages, ages 12 and up.
A collage of words and images presents the events of Freedom Summer, 1964 in this second book of the “Sixties Trilogy”. The narrative story is first told through the eyes of Sunny as she adjusts to her new blended family in a small Mississippi town, and as the community adjusts to the changes brought about by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An alternative perspective is shared as the narrator switches to Raymond, a black boy striving to experience all of the opportunities this new law is supposed to provide for him and other blacks. Alternating between narrative events are informational descriptions and photographs of real events from the time, written in a newspaper style. Interspersed are song lyrics from Motown, the Beatles, and others who expressed the frustrations and hope of the era. Author Deborah Wiles grew up as a white child in Mississippi and Alabama and draws from what she witnessed and experienced to create books that are realistic, yet touching.