Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement

by Ann Bausum

John Lewis and Jim Zwerg grew up in startlingly different circumstances, but together... read more

John Lewis and Jim Zwerg grew up in startlingly different circumstances, but together they helped change the world. Lewis, who is black, was the son of sharecroppers in Alabama. He attended a segregated, two-room school, and from the time he was young he dreamed of getting on a bus and leaving a state where being black meant so many doors were closed to him. Zwerg, who is white, was the son of a dentist and a homemaker in Appleton, Wisconsin, a community he describes as “lily-white” during his childhood in the 1940s and 1950s. When he attended Beloit College, Zwerg roomed with one of six students of color on the campus and his eyes began to open wide to racism. Like others before them, Lewis and Zwerg, who met in 1961 while both were attending school in Nashville, literally put their lives on the line for justice. They participated in sit-ins to protest segregation in Nashville, and then joined the Freedom Rides. Boarding buses in states that followed federal desegregation laws, Freedom Riders challenged southern states that refused to comply. As the buses crossed the borders of segregated states like Alabama, Freedom Riders cast a national spotlight on the racist social and political systems of the deep south. They were often met by angry, violent mobs, and many local police afforded little or no protection. In chronicling the Freedom Rides through the individual lives and shared experiences of Lewis and Zwerg, Ann Bausum takes readers on a vivid, unforgettable journey into the past. The Freedom Riders’ commitment and passion for justice is palpable, as is the infuriation of those they challenged. Archival photographs (including one of a hospitalized Zwerg after he was badly beaten by a Montgomery, Alabama, mob) illustrate this compelling look at one facet of the Civil Rights Movement. (Ages 10–16)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2007

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