Monday, April 12, 2010

Marching for Freedom

Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary

Written by: Elizabeth Partridge
Recommended Ages: 10 and up

I picked up Marching for Freedom thinking I would just browse through the photos and read their attributions. But once I read the first paragraph, I was hooked. The story was so gripping, I could not put it down.

What makes Marching for Freedom different from many other Civil Rights books is that it shows the roles that children played in the Civil Rights Movement. It specifically focuses on Selma during the long months before the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. Partridge does a masterful job describing the horrific conditions and day-to-day indignities inflicted upon Blacks in the South in 1965. We soon learn the roles that children played in this struggle. The Freedom Fighters actively recruited teenagers (and children) to participate in the protest marches and challenge the unjust laws that were in place. For, unlike adults, who would lose wages (or their jobs) if they were thrown in jail, children would come out in groups and protest. As Martin Luther King said:

"A hundred times I have been asked why we have allowed children to march in demonstrations, to freeze and suffer in jails, to be exposed to bullets and dynamite. The answer is simple. Our children and our families are maimed a little every day of our lives. If we can end an incessant torture by a single climactic confrontation, the risks are acceptable." (p.19)

Marching for Freedom focuses on the three months leading up to the landmark march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. We are introduced to some of the children involved, and hear their stories. It was a brutal time, and Partridge uses archival photos to show us what happened. Alongside, King, John Lewis and Ralph Abernathy you see young children singing and marching and, yes, running away from tear gas. There are also many of the protest songs that were such an important part of the movement interspersed throughout the book.

It's hard to believe that all of this took place only 45 years ago. This is an important book for middle school readers to read. I think with its focus on children, other children will relate to it in a way that they may not with other books. In my opinion, fifth and sixth grade classrooms should make sure to have Marching for Freedom on their shelves.

BookNosher Activity: It would be interesting for a class to focus on the protest songs presented in the book. Some of them will be very familiar to kids, although they may not know how they came to be. There are a lot of websites devoted to Civil Rights songs. Here's one to start with.

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