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.

Monday, April 4, 2016

What Was the March on Washington?

Title: What Was the March on Washington?
Author: Kathleen Krull
Illustrator: Tim Tomkinson
Reading Level: Age 8-12
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

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What Was the March on Washington? is a non-fiction informational chapter book detailing the March on Washington in August of 1963 and the events and injustices that led up to it. The author, Krull, defines the March on Washington in the first chapter, and then returns to the history that led up to the March. The chapters are in chronological order. Krull includes historical information on the Jim Crow laws, Brown v. Board of Education, and the KKK. Illustrations and real photographs are included in the text for readers. Influential black leaders like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, and Bayard Rustin are included, highlighting their direct or indirect roles in the March on Washington. The last chapter "We Shall Overcome" depicts what happened after the March (assassination of MLK and JFK, passing of the Civil Rights Act) and ends with reminded readers that although a lot has been accomplished, people are still treated unfairly because of the color of their skin. It ends the book with a beautifully simple line: "Every door that is opened meets with resistance. But the doors open, anyway." 

Element #4: Social Movements and Social Change
Although this book uses the March on Washington as a focal point that all these events led up to, this book simply and accurately explains the Civil Rights Movement. Krull does not sugarcoat the injustices that African Americans were subjected to, which can happen with the retelling of history to children. She outlines them in an age appropriate manner but without withholding information. Element four calls for teachers to highlight everyday people standing together to make change. The March of Washington had 300,000 everyday people from all races and walks of life come and stand together against racism. What Was the March on Washington? displays the type of social change that can take place when everyday people join together to demand social change.

Use in the Classroom
This book would be a great resource to use in a history curriculum about the Civil Rights Movement. What Was the March on Washington? is appropriate for fourth or fifth grade guided reading assignment. Teachers can take the chapters to explain events within the Civil Rights Movement, like the bus boycott, Brown v. BOE, and the Birmingham riots. There are difficult and horrific topics in the book that are discussed, like lynching and other atrocities committed against people of color (as well as illustrations and photos). Teachers must give proper context and support if assigning this as an independent reading assignment. 

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