Teenage brothers Sam and Stick live in Chicago in 1968. Their dad, Rev. Roland Childs, is a respected minister and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King. Sam’s dad believes passionately in non-violent protest and tirelessly organizes and participates in peaceful protest marches.
Older brother Stick has begun to question Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and has been secretly attending meetings of the Black Panthers, an organization whose philosophies are more aggressive than Dr. King’s and are different from what Rev. Child’s preaches and teaches his boys at home. Sam is torn between the ideas of has father and the ideas of his older brother, both of whom he respects and admires.
Everybody can relate to being torn between two choices and being torn between the opinions of two people you respect. When it comes down to figuring out what you think for your own self – that’s when things get hard.
After Dr. King is assassinated and Sam witnesses the brutal beating of a friend by police officers, he becomes more interested in the ideas Stick is learning about at the Black Panther meetings. He begins to attend the meetings also. The conversation the teens have at home, at school, and at these meetings are some of the best parts of the book. They are living the civil rights struggle as they face discrimination every day. Listening to these conversations you get a real sense of each philosophy and why it was chosen by the people committed to it.
This book has a pretty explosive, surprising ending. It isn’t a book for the faint hearted. These are really hard issues and there is violence in the book. It isn’t a happy story with a happy ending because it’s not that kind of story. It wasn’t a happy time. The book is true to the historical period so the violence is part of the story being told.
It is hard for Sam and Stick to stand by watching people suffer the injustices of racism. When Sam finds out Leroy, the leader of the student Black Panthers, sneaks away to talk to Rev. Childs, the same way Sam is sneaking off to the Black Panther meetings, he realizes that these issues are hard for everyone. Sam discovers that standing quiet and firm is different than doing nothing and that you can be agressive, without being violent. A really powerful, emotional book. Don’t miss the author’s note at the end – it is a great discussion of the true events, people and groups that appear in this book. Author: Kekla Magoon Award: Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent 2010
This is the story of a young African-American boy who grew up in Indianapolis over a hundred years ago. Despite living at a time when African-Americans were often denied basic rights, Marshall Taylor became a world champion cyclist.
Marshall earned the nickname “Major” when he performed bicycle tricks as a very young boy dressed in a military style costume. When he was a teenager he stopped performing tricks and moved on to bicycle racing – and he was really, really good – world champion good! His story is inspiring because he persevered even when there were many people who didn’t want him to even be in a race, let alone win, just because he was African-American. Sometimes he rode fast just to get away from angry people chasing him! Author: Marlene Targ Brill
In Indianapolis, we have the Major Taylor Velodrome, a world-class bicycle racing track named for this cycling great. You can ride your bike and also use inline skates at the Velodrome. If you want to try riding there, it’s best if you are at least 10 years old. Call ahead and see if you can arrange a time to go try it out. And don’t forget your helmet! 3649 Cold Spring Rd., Indianapolis, IN 46222 Velodrome Phone: 317-327-8356
Indiana’s first black troops in the Civil War were enlisted in November 1863. More than eight hundred black men joined the Twenty-eighth Regiment. The regiment trained at Camp Fremont near Fountain Square in Indianapolis. The regiment is best known for its role in the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, where on July 30, 1864, it participated in the Battle of the Crater. In this battle, Union troops dug a tunnel under the Confederate fort at Petersburg, carried eight thousand pounds of explosives into the tunnel, and blew up the fort. When the war was over the soldiers returned to Indianapolis on January 6, 1866. The regiment lost 212 men in battle or as a result of disease.
Tuskegee Airmen were African-American pilots who flew in World War II. Before the Tuskegee Airmen, no African-American pilots had every been in the U.S. armed forces. They were the first and became highly regarded airmen. They are best known for escorting bombers. In this video you can watch some Hoosier airmen talk about their experiences during the war.
Dit Sims lives in tiny Moundville, Alabama in 1917. He’s got nine brothers and sisters and his Dad routinely forgets his name. It’s summer, it’s hot and Dit’s best friend is away for the summer. When he finds out that a new postmaster is coming to town, Dit hopes the new postmaster, Mr. Walker, has a son close to his age that will want to go fishing and play baseball.
The postmaster comes, and Dit is disappointed to learn that he doesn’t bring a son, he brings prissy, brainiac Emma who always has her nose in a book and doesn’t know one thing about baseball. Dit’s town is disappointed to learn that the Walkers are African-American.
Dit’s family welcomes the Walkers and the two families slowly build a relationaship sharing chores and helping out when family members are sick. Dit and Emma start building a friendship too. Dit teaches Emma how to throw and hit a baseball. Emma helps Dit with math and introduces him to exciting adventure books like Treasure Island. Slowly, over the summer, the two kids become best friends.
Some people in Dit’s town don’t welcome the Walkers, especially the town sheriff. Some people object to Dit and Emma’s friendship, even object to the Walkers living in Moundville at all. When the two kids witness a racially motivated shooting and realize their friend, the town’s black barber, is unjustly blamed and sentenced to hang, they secretly come up with a daring plan to save him.
This story brings the injustice and horrors of racial bigotry to life. It’s a story about friendship between people and how that friendship is stronger than the forces around it that try to tear it apart. Two thumbs up historical fiction. Author: Kristin Levine