Let the Children March

An African-American History Professor told me once that the histories we need to study are those stories that have yet to be resolved. The details of the 1963 Birmingham Children's Crusade is one of those stories. Voter discrimination still exists and knowing this history informs the actions needed in the present. During the Civil Rights movement, children addressed injustice and were successful in changing laws and today we need to ensure anti-racist policies and practices are in place to support those laws. Marching is a method of resistance and there are many forms of resistance to study. Empower students to learn about voting rights, voting issues relevant to your area and methods of resistance. Develop action plans to make a difference in your community.
-Dena

Social Justice Activities:

  • Identify the problems families faced and the solution the children came up with. Their solution was the cause of a series of events, evaluate the many effects of that solution.

  • Study voter suppression of today. Evaluate voter suppression as the effect and critique the causes, i.e. racism, capitalism, white-supremacy, anti-Blackness, patriarchy. Analyze society's perception of resistance as divisive, disunifying, violent against the tone and figurative language the author uses. Why is her tone loving when writing about social justice?

  • Analyze the characters to understand the strategies of Civil Rights Activists (see teacher video). Read the lyrics of the three songs mentioned in the book, evaluate the language choice (writer's craft) and the historical relevance (author's purpose).

  • Study voting rights, voting issues relevant to your area and methods of resistance (writing, art, public speaking, educational materials, collective action, community service, legislation, etc). Study Black Lives Matter forms of resistance and develop action plans to make a difference.

Relevant Social Justice Standards:

These activities support the following standards:

Justice 13. Students will analyze the harmful impact of bias and injustice on the world, historically and today.

Justice 14. Students will recognize that power and privilege influence relationships on interpersonal, intergroup and institutional levels and consider how they have been affected by those dynamics.

Justice 15. Students will identify figures, groups, events and a variety of strategies and philosophies relevant to the history of social justice around the world.

Action 20. Students will plan and carry out collective action against bias and injustice in the world and will evaluate what strategies are most effective.

Reading Strategies:

Visual Literacy: Before reading, evaluate the pictures on the first several pages and ask, What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Problem/Solution, Cause & Effect: Compare the problems families identified with marching and the solution the children came up with. Their solution was the cause of a series of events, evaluate the effects.

Poetry: Three songs are mentioned in the book, read the lyrics and evaluate the language choice (writer's craft) and the historical relevance (author's purpose).

Analyze Characters: Connect your analysis to understanding that Civil Rights activists were strategic (see video).

Figurative Language: Analyze the meaning of, "wrapped in the arms of our ancestors." Other meaning and tone to analyze: silence so loud, fierce tide, walked only in love, seeds of revolution. Evaluate this language as it relates to resistance (the language is loving but society often does not view resistance as loving).

Writer's Craft: For older students, study the author's words and identify details that show how the author and illustrator were able to achieve the balance she was hoping for: "We didn’t want to tell a cheery story that left out the fear and horror of that week. But we also didn’t want to tell all the truly upsetting details and scare young readers. It was a delicate balance." -Monica Clark Robinson

Timeline: research other events from the timeline on the last page.

Book Details:
  • Fiction, All Ages
  • Perspectives: Black Americans
  • Author's stated heritage: White. I typically choose authors who write stories that either reflect their own lived experiences or reflect learning they have gained through dedicating their time to those communities. Over time, this author interviewed many men and women who took part in the Children's March to inform this story. This book won the Coretta Scott King Award.
  • Subject Integration: History, Activism, Civics, Art (Frank Morrison's work)

Resources for older students

Mighty Times- The Children's March

Order for free from Learning for Justice: documentary on the Children's March and a teacher's guide.


Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain