Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Book Review: Locked Up for Freedom by Heather E. Schwartz


In 1963, more than 30 African-American girls ages 11 to 16 were arrested for taking part in Civil Rights protests in Americus, Georgia. They were taken without their families' knowledge to a Civil War–era stockade in Leesburg, Georgia, where they were confined in unsanitary conditions and exposed to brutal treatment. Over the following weeks, their commitment to the fight for equality was put to the test. 

I love finding books about bits of history I wasn't aware of. Of course, I knew about the Civil Rights Movement, and that African Americans of all ages were arrested and mistreated, but this is the first I have heard of this particular incident.

I also love books that include first-hand accounts of historical events, so this title fits the bill on both counts. It begins with a solid background on both Jim Crow laws - listing some of the specific laws of Georgia, down to how many city blocks apart 'colored' and 'white' baseball games had to be played. Rules of etiquette are detailed, as well as things like health officials refusing to use new needles for African American patients. Charts comparing earning potentials and photographs of police dogs attacking peaceful teenagers all serve to help the reader understand why these protests weren't simply a matter of complaining about something relatively petty.

The conditions the girls were kept under have to be read about themselves. The fact that these are first-hand accounts, photographed by a daring young photographer smuggled in under a blanket in the back of a car, reminds us that this all happened not too long ago. A must-have for every library that serves upper elementary through high school students, and hopefully one that will be referred to frequently in class.

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