Author: Deborah Wiles
Illustrator: Jerome Lagarrigue
Grade Level: K-2
Freedom Summer written by Deborah Wiles and illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue, is a wonderful children's book. This book explores the true friendship of two boys named Joe and John Henry. John Henry's mother, Annie Mae works for Joe's mother. During the summer months John Henry goes to work with his mother and the boys help her sweep and also they play outside all day. When the boys go into town, they have to use separate entrances and bathrooms based on their skin color. Joe goes down town to the general store and gets snacks while John Henry waits outside because he is not allowed in by law. John Henry is a great swimmer but can not go to the pool because of his color so the boys swim down together at their favorite place called, Fiddler's Creek. One evening, Joe's father says how a new law is being passed where the town pool is opened tomorrow for anyone no matter what color their skin is. John Henry and Joe were so excited to go the next day only to find out that the town was removing the pool and covering it with tar. After both the boys being very dishearten they decide to go to the general store to buy pops. John Henry and Joe were able to walk in together for the first time and pick out their own pops!
Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice
Freedom Summer explores social injustice issues teaching young students about segregation and prejudice. Discussing segregation and prejudice topics will help students get a better understanding of how history once was before the Civil Rights Act. Reading this book to students will also allow them to explore the emotions John Henry and Joe go through being friends during this time of separate everything. Jerome Lagarrigue illustrated these pictures in such a way that students will really gain a perspective of how to explore those emotions talked as the book is read through. Students will also be able to see how unfair it was for African-Americans during this time and can lead to further questioning and discussing.
There are so many great different activities you and your students can do. One activity that I thought of would be to have my students write in journals about their own thoughts of how John Henry was not allowed to have the same things as his friend Joe. Students could draw pictures along with how they felt. Another activity would be to have my students make a comparison from Freedom Summer to other books we have read in book or famous people who went through prejudice and segregation just what John Henry was going through. The comparison could be done by making venn diagrams as a class or in small groups and then present it to the class as a whole. Once the students are done with either project, we can hang them around the room or in one of our centers.