Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Freedom Summer For Young People

The Violent Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy

by Rebecca Stefoff and Bruce Watson

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This latest edition in Triangle Square's For Young People series is a gripping account of the summer that changed America.


In the summer of 1964, as the Civil Rights movement boiled over, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) sent more than seven hundred college students to Mississippi to help black Americans already battling for democracy, their dignity and the right to vote. The campaign was called “Freedom Summer.” But on the evening after volunteers arrived, three young civil rights workers went missing, presumed victims of the Ku Klux Klan. The disappearance focused America’s attention on Mississippi. In the days and weeks that followed, volunteers and local black activists faced intimidation, threats, and violence from white people who didn't believe African Americans should have the right to vote. As the summer unfolded, volunteers were arrested or beaten. Black churches were burned. More Americans came to Mississippi, including doctors, clergymen, and Martin Luther King. A few frightened volunteers went home, but the rest stayed on in Mississippi, teaching in Freedom Schools, registering voters, and living with black people as equals. Freedom Summer brought out the best and the worst in America. The story told within these pages is of everyday people fighting for freedom, a fight that continues today. Freedom Summer for Young People is a riveting account of a decisive moment in American history, sure to move and inspire readers.

Freedom Summer For Young People Teaching Guide Forthcoming

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“[A] detailed, concise, well-researched account of a significant civil rights program.... An underlying sense of urgency pervades the writing as the narrative progresses, reflecting the tension building throughout the summer as an array of forces, including the Klan, the FBI, and competing political factions, came into play. A fascinating account of a pivotal civil rights initiative.”

“Compelling, comprehensive, and immensely readable, Freedom Summer for Young People invites readers to confront a grim historical moment and to witness the courage of people who risked everything, even their lives, for the sake of racial equality in Mississippi. If you think you don’t need yet another book about the Freedom Summer, you’re wrong.”

“Here is the whole story of the young people who risked their lives for freedom that terrible, wonderful summer of 1964—and the disenfranchised Mississippians who risked their lives simply by being black. It's history that will make your blood boil. This page-turner should be required reading for every student.”

“Freedom Summer for Young People is a delightful and challenging book for young readers, filled with powerful stories of racial change and great hope. Follow these young people into Mississippi to meet incredible homegrown black activists and learn about the most audacious civil rights campaign of the 1960s.”

“A searing account of the difficulties of affecting change in a state that persistently held onto racial inequality and division. ... Moving personal stories of volunteers who wanted to make a difference and found themselves changed forever round out this narrative that provides a valuable level of intimacy for readers. An in-depth look that contributes to understanding a violent painful chapter in recent history.”

blog — September 17

Teach A People's History

 
Who needs Trump's 1776 Commission? Certainly not us. Kids deserve more than nationalist propaganda. They deserve to learn a complete history of the United States of the people and for the people. And we can help.

 
To teach a people’s history is to consider the historical perspective of the marginalized and the oppressed. It is to acknowledge the historical impact of people from all backgrounds; to share the groundbreaking cultural and political contributions of everyday people, not just the stories promoted by (and beneficial to) those in power. When we teach history from this perspective, we can uncover a better understanding of how our present came to be. By sharing these stories, we equip children with the foundation needed to make lasting, meaningful change in our society –– for the good of all of us.

Young people have been making important contributions to history for centuries. To take a few examples from Howard Zinn's A Young People's History of the United States: There's Anyokah, the child who helped bring written language to her Cherokee people. There are the young laborers who—to the benefit of their peers toiling in cotton mills, canneries, and mines—stood up for themselves with the National Child Labor Committee's Declaration of Dependence. And there's John Tinker, the high school student who fought all the way to the Supreme Court for freedom of expression at school—and won. Our mission with the For Young People series is not to talk down to the young, but to make accessible versions of some of the best books around, and thereby giving young people the facts and inspiration they may need in order to lift their voices up.

For more teaching resources, visit:

Zinn Education Project

Teaching for Change

Free Teaching Guides, Lesson Plans, & Other Resources

A Young People's History of the United States Lesson Plan

1493 for Young People: From Columbus's Voyage to Globalization

A Different Mirror for Young People Teaching Guide

Eiffel's Tower for Young People Teaching Guide

A Road Map to Howard Zinn's Writings Published by Seven Stories Press

Ink Knows No Borders Teaching Guide

Martha and the Slave Catchers Teaching Guide 

  

Bruce Watson's previous books include Sacco and Vanzetti, a finalist for the Edgar Award, and Bread and Roses, a New York Public Library Book to Remember. His journalism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Boston GlobeSmithsonian, and Reader's Digest. He lives in Massachusetts.