Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins
Title: Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit- Ins
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Jerome LaGarrigue
SJE: Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice
This book talks about a little girl, Connie and her family. Connie and her mama go shopping together in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina almost every week. Whenever they were hot or tired they would go to the five-and-dime to get a Coke and would have to stand at the snack bar. They were not allowed to sit at the lunch counter because it was for "Whites Only". Connie would watch little white girls eating banana splits and other meals and would want to join them so badly and would always ask her mama if they could sit for a while. Her mama always told her no because "they were not allowed". Connie realized there were signs all over town telling them where they could and could not go; water fountains, swimming pools, movie theaters and bathrooms. Dr. Martin Luther King came to town one day to speak in front of the college chapel and Connie and her family went to see him speak. Connie didn't understand most of what he was saying but she did realize how positive the crowds response was to Dr. King. Soon after, her brother and sister joined the NAACP and went door-to-door petitioning to let black people vote. One afternoon, Connie and her mama were back downtown to do some shopping and noticed four black boys sitting at the lunch counter. They knew the boys because they were friends with her brother from A&T College. The boys tried to order lunch but the waitress refused to serve them. The owner left and soon came back with police officers. This situation was all over the news and in the newspaper. Because of this, hundreds of people joined the sit-ins including Connie's own brother and sister. Connie wanted to join too but she was too young so she helped her brother and sister make picket signs. The protest was broadcast all over the TV and Connie watched her brother and sister take an active role in the protest. Their family was so proud of them. It turned out Connie's sister was arrested and sent to jail but refused to have her father bail her out. She wanted to stay with the rest of the students. During the protests no one was allowed downtown because it was dangerous.Once the protest was over, Connie and her family finally went downtown and noticed the black women who worked in the restaurant's kitchen were sitting at the lunch counter eating egg salad! The next day, Connie, her brother and sister made a special trip downtown to sit at the lunch counter and eat lunch, and Connie ordered a banana split.
This is a representation of Element Three because it is a great example of racism. The Greensboro Sit-Ins were ones that sparked a revolution throughout the south. The four black boys sitting at the lunch counter, represented in the story, became known as the Greensboro Four. These student-led sit-ins took a stand against segregation. Segregation was a very large issue across the country. This book tells a story of how these sit-ins and the protest against segregation affected a traditional family from Greensboro. Being that it is told from a little girl's perspective shows how it affected everyone, not just those who were old enough to be aware of the details going on around them. This situation affected how and where the black people of the city could and could not go. It told them where and if they were welcome, which caused a large negative impact on their lives. Since then, sit-ins sparked other forms of civil disobedience, some of which we are still experiencing today such as Occupy Wall Street.
Use of this book:
In my fifth grade classroom, I would have the students do a role-play and stage their own sit-in. I would separate the students into whites and blacks, regardless of their actual skin color. I would have the "black" students pick a topic about something within the school they would like to change. It could be something like the elimination of homework or extra time at recess. They would then create their own picketing posters and banners with slogans and catch phrases.
The "black" students would do the picketing and protesting for their cause around the classroom while the"white" students would try and stop them. We would only use words, violence would not be acceptable.
Afterwards, I would prompt a class discussion focusing on how each race felt as they were in their roles. Some key questions I would ask are:
Were you happy, sad, angry, frustrated?
What would it be like if our world was still segregated?
How would you feel about being in a classroom with only one race?