Cover image for Freedom's children : young civil rights activists tell their own stories
Freedom's children : young civil rights activists tell their own stories
Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c1993.
Physical Description:
xii, 167 p. : illustrations ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Reading Level:
760 L Lexile
Southern blacks who were young and involved in the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s describe their experiences.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 973 LEV 1 1

On Order



Thirty African-Americans who were children or teenagers in the 1950's and 1960's talk about what it was like for them to fight segregation in the South.

Author Notes

Ellen Levine was born in New York City on March 9, 1939. She received a master's degree in political science from the University of Chicago and a law degree from New York University School of Law. She was an attorney for a public-interest law group, a documentary filmmaker, and taught courses in writing for children and young adults in Vermont College's MFA program.

She wrote numerous books for children and young adults during her lifetime including Darkness Over Denmark, I Hate English, Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Stories, Rachel Carson: A Twentieth-Century Life, and Henry's Freedom Box. She died from lung cancer on May 26, 2012 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

The names of those whose voices are heard in these pages are not recorded in textbooks, yet their childhoods in Alabama, Mississippi or Arkansas were marked by acts of extraordinary courage that collectively altered the course of American history. They were among the participants, and in some cases the leaders, of numerous civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s, many of which had violent, tragic outcomes. These individuals, whom Levine doggedly tracked down, were some of the first black young people to attend formerly all-white schools; to participate in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in stores; to become Freedom Riders, protesting illegal segregation on interstate buses; and to wage the arduous, bloody fight to secure voting rights for blacks. Chronicling all of these campaigns--as well as shocking incidents of senseless beatings, unjust jailings and murders--these first-person accounts are articulate and affecting. Representative are the words of Gladis Williams, repeatedly arrested for taking part in protests during her high school years in Montgomery: ``So far as having fear, we didn't even know what fear was. We just had our minds set on freedom, and that was it.'' Ages 11-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

This compilation of thirty oral histories of young African Americans involved in the civil-rights movement, collected through extensive interviews, is a unique approach to the history of that time. Illustrated with black-and-white photographs, the dramatic and tragic stories of the lives of ordinary folk under segregation make compelling reading. Brief biographies of the presenters add to the usefulness of the volume. Bib., ind. From HORN BOOK 1993, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Using the words of participants in the landmark struggles in Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi, Levine powerfully re-creates their experiences. Seeking out African-Americans who were children or teenagers at the time--none of them famous though many intimates of figures like Michael Schwerner, Fannie Lou Hamer, or Martin Luther King, Jr.--the author records their memories of segregation and of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Claudette Colvin, 15, refused to give up her seat nine months before Rosa Parks's similar action); of integrating the schools (the black students' dogged persistence while enduring the open antagonism and injustices of classmates and teachers may be the most moving heroism in a book where extraordinary courage inhabits every page); of sit-ins, freedom rides, and voter registration drives; of the Selma march. Prefacing each section with historical background, Levine skillfully selects accounts to portray the period, the particular circumstances, the people involved, the brutality and intransigence of the whites, the powerful sense of brotherhood, community, and self-worth that the Movement engendered in blacks, and their reliance on their faith and on unyielding nonviolence. Notes on the 30 interviewees here reveal varied later lives: teachers, lawyers, and other members of the middle class; a home health aide, an assistant secretary of labor in the Carter Administration. Inspiring and richly authentic source material: a must. Chronology (1954-68); bibliography of additional sources; b&w photos and index not seen. (Nonfiction. 10+)

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-12. "We were all ordinary kids." For too long most accounts of the civil rights movement have focused on the leaders. In this fine collection of oral histories, 30 African Americans who were children and teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s talk about what it was like for them in Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas: sitting in; riding at the front of the bus; integrating schools; braving arrest and violence, even death. Levine provides a clear framework, organizing the personal accounts into chapters, first, on what segregation was like, and, then, on the stages of the struggle, from the Montgomery bus boycott and the Freedom Rides to Bloody Sunday and the Selma movement. In each chapter she introduces the individual stories with a general view of the political scene, and at the back of the book she provides a detailed chronology and who's who and a bibliography. But it's the dramatic immediacy of the first-person accounts that will hold kids fast: Claudette Colvin tells what it was like for her at 15 when she was the first--before even Rosa Parks--to refuse to give up her seat on the bus. Several people remember what it was like to sit in and demand to be served in an all-white restaurant ("You would have thought we had walked in nude, or had three eyes"). They remember the sense of solidarity with white Freedom Riders who risked their lives, and several recall personal meetings with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Above all, they communicate what it was like to find courage they didn't know they had and to transform themselves and the world around them. ~--Hazel Rochman