Such was the case on February 4, 1960, when four black college students took seats at the whites-only lunch counter at Woolworth's in Greensboro, North Carolina. Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, tells that story with same passion and intensity with which it took place.
The story is told with minimal yet factual narrative, with a delicious dash of figurative language salted throughout (Brian explains why in the video below). The narrative is also punctuated with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which not only guided the protesters of the time in their nonviolent methods, but may also help young readers of today understand how these crusaders could withstand such abuse and humiliation.
In this video, author Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrator Brian Pinkney discuss the events leading up to the sit-ins (these same events are detailed in an epilogue called "A Final Helping" at book's end). They also discuss the writing and illustration process, and close with a brief overview of the book.
- Andrea and Brian discussed the food references used in the book. Why was food mentioned so often? Share a specific passage which employs a food metaphor and ask, What does that passage mean? Why not just come right out and say that? What other food-related metaphors did you hear? In our everyday language, what other metaphors are often used?
- The author and illustrator talked about the need for conducting research using photographs from the time. Why would this be so important? What information might the photographs provide? If the author/illustrator team chose to create a picture book set in a time period before photography was invented, how might they gather information for their pictures? If we also say, "Write what you know," then why do research?
- Toward the end of the video, Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brain Pinkney discuss their own heroes. Why is that included in the video? How might their own heroes have affected their decision to create this book? Why is it important to have heroes? Who are some of your heroes? How could you find out more about them?
- For additional ideas and extensions, check out the teaching guide from Hatchette Book Group, prepared by the very talented Tracie Vaughn Zimmer.
- Grab the excellent lesson plan outline, with lots of links to related resources, at author Carole Boston Weatherford's website.
- Encourage some theatrics with a Readers Theater Script based on Freedom on the Menu.
- Check out some recommended activities for this book including an activity that compares the story of the civil right movement told in newspapers from 1960, a work of historical fiction, and students' own social studies textbook. You'll also found a download meant as a reading guide for Freedom Summer, aimed at parents but also a valuable resource for the classroom.
- Show students this excellent dramatic interpretation of the Greensboro events. (Visit the Smithsonian's History Explorer for related lesson plans as well as transcripts of the video below). Consider having students create their own dramatic retelling of another Civil Rights era event.
In the early 1960s the American South had long been a place where Black Americans could not drink from the same drinking fountains as whites, attend the same schools, or enjoy the same public areas. Then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law and states that "All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment" of any public place, regardless of "...race, color, religion, or national origin."
I was born a white child in Mobile, Alabama, and sent summers visiting my beloved Mississippi relatives. When the Civil Rights Act was passed, the town pool closed. So did the roller rink and the ice cream parlor. Rather than lawfully giving blacks the same rights and freedoms as whites, many southern businesses chose to shut their doors in protest. Some of them closed forever.
- Why are these two boys friends? What qualities do you look for in a friend?
- Do the changes happening around the two boys strengthen their friendship, or weaken it? Explain.
- John Henry and his older brother, Will, are both black, yet his brother is part of the crew that fills the pool with asphalt. Why would Will choose to do that? How does he feel about it? How do we know?
- What else could the county have done about the pool situation?
- Does this book contain any heroes? What makes a person heroic?
- How were they alike? Different?
- How did the children in each book react to the changing times?
- What part did adults play in each book?
- In The Other Side, Mama says, "Because that's the way things have always been." Is a similar sentiment expressed in Freedom Summer? What evidence is presented in both books that times are now changing?
- In The Other Side, what is the fence meant to represent? Is there a similar symbol in Freedom Summer?
- Do the books seem to contain the same message?
- See the lesson plan at Learning to Give for more activities and extensions. At that same site, another lesson plan on trust also uses The Other Side as a reference.
Rosa's Bus: The Ride to Civil Rights
- What are the basic facts given in each book?
- How does each book present those facts?
- Why did the writer and author of each book choose their unique approach?
- Where did each book begin? Where did each end?
- What message can we take away from each book?
- What questions are left unanswered?
- Check out the Boycott Blues Teaching Guide at Harper Collins Children's Books.