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Cover image for Freedom Riders : John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the front lines of the civil rights movement
Freedom Riders : John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the front lines of the civil rights movement

Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : National Geographic, c2006.
Physical Description:
79 p. : ill. ; 29 cm.
Black America -- White America -- Common ground -- Early rides -- Blood brothers -- Rolling on -- Separate paths -- Afterword : toward one America -- Partial roster of Riders -- Chronology.
Reading Level:
1090 L Lexile


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 323.092273 BAU 1 1
Book J 323.092273 BAU 1 1
Book Q J 323.092273 BAU 1 1
Book YA 323.092273 BAU 1 1

On Order



Freedom Riders compares and contrasts the childhoods of John Lewis and James Zwerg in a way that helps young readers understand the segregated experience of our nation's past. It shows how a common interest in justice created the convergent path that enabled these young men to meet as Freedom Riders on a bus journey south.

No other book on the Freedom Riders has used such a personal perspective. These two young men, empowered by their successes in the Nashville student movement, were among those who volunteered to continue the Freedom Rides after violence in Anniston, Alabama, left the original bus in flames with the riders injured and in retreat. Lewis and Zwerg joined the cause knowing their own fate could be equally harsh, if not worse. The journey they shared as freedom riders through the Deep South changed not only their own lives but our nation's history.

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Author Notes

Ann Bausum writes about US history for young people. Her books consistently earn prominent national recognition. Denied, Detained, Deported was named the 2010 Carter G. Woodson Book Award winner at the secondary school level from the National Council for the Social Studies. Muckrakers earned the Golden Kite Award as best nonfiction book of the year from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Freedom Riders gained the Robert F. Sibert Honor designation from the American Library Association, and With Courage and Cloth received the Jane Addams Children's Book Award as the year's best book on social justice issues for older readers.

Reviews 3

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate, Middle School) Forty-five years ago, the first wave of Freedom Riders, blacks and whites seated together, rode buses into the heart of the segregated South, risking their lives to change the way things were. Through the personal stories of two participants, Jim Zwerg, a young white man from Wisconsin, and (now Congressman) John Lewis, a young black man from Alabama, the author engagingly introduces this history. Opening with a comparison of their childhoods, Bausum brings to life the era's inequalities: for Zwerg, ""electricity, indoor plumbing, and central heating were a given""; not so for Lewis. She describes how the two met in Nashville, then summarizes earlier attempts to challenge segregation and recounts in detail the May 1961 Freedom Ride from Nashville to Birmingham. A final chapter notes the paths their lives have taken since. Attractively designed and carefully focused, the book is enlivened with well-chosen historical photos, including several of battered Freedom Riders and a striking shot of a burning bus. The equally admirable back matter comprises a double-page photograph of the 1963 March on Washington, a partial roster of riders, a chronology, further resources, research notes, citations, a bibliography, an index, and illustration credits. Lewis and Zwerg both contributed forewords. This photo-essay would make an excellent accompaniment for teaching about a pivotal event of the 1960s. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-9. In another excellent work of nonfiction, the author of the acclaimed With Courage and Cloth 0 (2004), covers a civil rights topic less frequently addressed than Brown0 v. Board of Education0 or the 1963 March on Washington. Eschewing a general overview of the 1961 Freedom Rides for specific, personal histories of real participants in the dangerous bus integration protests, Bausum focuses on two college students from strikingly different backgrounds: Jim Zwerg, a white Wisconsin native who became involved during an exchange visit to Nashville, and John Lewis, a black seminarian and student leader of the nonviolence movement. Zwerg became an inadvertent figurehead when he was branded "nigger-lover" and singled out for a particularly harsh beating, while Lewis parlayed leadership skills cultivated during the rides into political success as a Georgia congressman. Incisively illustrated with archival photos (one of which shows Zwerg and Lewis side-by-side in a jail cell, "bloodied together as brothers in a common cause"), this moving biographical diptych prompts careful thinking about race (Zwerg himself believed he received disproportionate fame because he was white), and delivers a galvanizing call to action, encapsulated in Lewis' stirring foreword: "You can change the world." Zwerg likewise contributes a foreword; exhaustive, useful end matter concludes, including resource listings, a bibliography, and citations for quotes. --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2006 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-Ann Bausum's powerful book (National Geographic, 2005) about the experiences of John Lewis and Jim Zwerg during the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s is narrated by Cecelia Riddett whose impassioned reading emphasizes the brutal facts. Lewis, an African-American from the South, knew about prejudice and degradation from an early age and intended to become a preacher to help resolve the conflicts all around him. Zwerg, living the more privileged life of a Northern white student, came to understand the civil rights cause while he was in college. Both men risked their lives to take on the racist practices of interstate bus travel and highlight white Southerners' deep-seated hatred for blacks. The book, told from their perspectives, provides information about their lives, participation in the rides, and beating by an angry white mob. Both Zwerg and Lewis contributed stirring forewords, which would have had even more impact if they were read by the two men. Make sure to have the book available so listeners can see the archival photos.-Edie Ching, Washington Latin Public Charter School, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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