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.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Remember: The Journey to School Integration

Author: Toni Morrison
Illustrator: Historic Photographs
Grade Level: Third through Eighth


Toni Morrison has imagined the emotions and thoughts of people from historic photographs in her book, Remember: The Journey to School Integration. Morrison’s text infuses additional life into these striking photographs and skillfully illustrates for children what segregation and discrimination looked like before and during the United States civil rights movement and school integration. Morrison illuminates for students Jim Crow laws and civil rights milestones in her compact introduction to this collection through historic facts, personal recollections, and literary metaphors. 

Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice

Educators will find Remember: The Journey to School Integration a wonderful resource for introducing their students to school and social segregation in the United States before the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954. Morrison explains to her readers that years ago there were many places in the United States where children of different races could not attend school together. The photos and imagined internal dialogue in this book allow students to see the impact of discrimination and segregation on the lives of black children in their: schools, during private play, and in public spaces. By pairing historic photos with imagined internal dialogue Morrison adeptly provides readers glimpses of the hurt, frustration, fear, danger, and injustice of this time period as well as the strength, resilience, bravery, and hope.

These photos and text explore segregation as it existed in schools, classrooms, theaters, buses, at water fountains, and more and invites readers to emotionally participate in the experiences pictured. This vantage point provides fertile material for educators to explore with their students how discrimination and segregation impacted children’s lives then, and what effects it continues to have on communities and people today.     

At the end of, Remember: The Journey to School Integration is a timeline outlining key events in civil rights and school desegregation history as well as photo notes identifying the dates, places, and details associated with each photograph. Both of these resources will further assist teachers and students who wish to continue their exploration of social injustice to better understand people's experiences during segregation.


Educators interested in exploring issues of social injustice will find this beautiful book provides many meaningful opportunities to explore racism and oppression in ways their students will find enlightening and engaging (see 'Classroom Resources' above for the publisher's curriculum recommendations). Listed below are two activities I've designed for use in the classroom:

Activity 1: Ask young students (grades 3-5) to thumb through the book and choose a photograph that captures their imagination. Try to encourage students to select a range of different photographs. Ask students to imagine what it felt like to be one of the people in the photograph they've selected and have them write a narrative or draw a picture with their own caption from that individual's perspective. Have students, in small groups, share what they have created and why they chose the photo that they did.

Next discuss timelines and how they can be used to help us understand history. Using the photo guide at the back of the book, have students line up in order of when the photos they've selected were taken. Students' projects can be displayed in timeline order with photocopies of the photographs that inspired them, along with important dates in civil rights history.

Activity 2: Older students (grades 6-8) working in groups of 4-6, should select a photograph that captures their group's imagination. Next students should research the photo/the photographer, the people, the event captured, or the time period. Each group should select a different photograph.

Student groups using their selected photo and research should create a short dramatic act that either begins or ends with the students posed in the same positions as the people in the photo. The primary goal of this project is to have students bring their selected photo to life through dialogue they have scripted and shaped through their research.


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