“We Shall Overcome” (Series)
Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: A Primary Source Exploration of the Struggle for Racial Equality
Author: Lori Mortensen
Publisher: Capstone Press, 2015
Ages 8 to 10, Nonfiction
The voices of key Civil Rights activists come to life through documented primary sources in Mortensen’s Voices of the Civil Rights Movement. Readers learn the different points of view, and how participants in the movement actually felt. Photographs show the emotions on people’s faces, their actions and reactions, and elsewhere in quoted speech, the words they spoke.
After slavery was abolished in 1865, “Jim Crow” laws quickly fell into place in the southern states, separating the black and white races. Hate groups and mob activity rose against African-Americans, threatening all who disobeyed. Blacks grew weary of being separate and not equal. In 1955, Rosa Parks of Montgomery, Alabama, said she “was tired of giving in.” Mortensen describes the bus boycott that resulted when Parks went to jail over a bus seat she refused to yield to a white rider. Leaders on both sides of the argument rose.
Alabama Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers argued that the law had been broken, plain and simple. Black leader Martin Luther King Jr. initiated a nonviolent protest, in which blacks in Montgomery refused to ride on the bus line. The boycott gained national attention and protest spread throughout the south to other areas of concern, such as school segregation. Black leaders Thurgood Marshall and Daisy Bates spoke out, demanding more action, against objections by Governor Orval Faubus and George Wallace, who fought against racial integration. Freedom Riders made the news, like Jim Zwerg, a white Civil Rights worker who was beaten.
The fight for freedom changed America, Mortensen writes. White prejudice continued to surface and more lives were lost, but southern viewpoints eventually changed. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 and America's first African-American president was elected in 2008. A Glossary and Critical Thinking Using the Common Core section are included to generate classroom discussion. A good primary source for teachers to introduce, as well as for interested parents.