By: Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon
Illustrator: Criag Orback
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publicatoin Date: January 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Reviewe Date: March 2010
Michael Schwerner, or Mickey, as he was known, was a young Jewish man who had been inspired by his forebears and believed in “justice, righteousness, and equality for all people.” He and his wife, Rita, had made the decision to head to the segregated South from New York to help black people in their quest for equality. He was only twenty-four-years old, but he was a man of his convictions and if Meridian, Mississippi was holding his fellow man down, that’s where he was needed because there was work to be done. Black voters were shying away from registering and as part of Freedom Summer he could help them so they would be able to “improve education for black children attending separate, but unequal schools.” Some things just had to change.
Mickey quickly bonded with James Earl Chaney (J.E.), a native of Meridian and longtime member of the NAACP. He was only twenty-one, but he had already developed a passion to fight for the rights of his people. He was a tradesman alongside his father, but was quickly persuaded by his friend to become a full-time employee of CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality). Mickey was the office director and the two of them would soon be working closely together. Later they were joined by Andrew Goodman, a young Jewish man who had “been in Mississippi for only a day.” June 21, 1964 would prove to be a fateful one for the three young men. They were in the car traveling on Highway 16 driving away from Mount Zion, a church that lay in ashes, when a Neshoba County police car began to sound its siren, signaling for them to stop. Would Mickey ask J.E. to gun it? Would they stop to see what the cops wanted? Were they themselves a target for the racists of the segregated south?
This poignant story with its blend of artwork and photographic portraits will stun its readership, young and old alike. This story gracefully “imagines” the conversations and events that happened on June 21, 1964 when Michael Schwerner, James Earl Chaney and Andrew Goodman were pulled over by Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price. The speculation ends there because history records the fate of these young Civil Rights activists. The conversational style will quickly draw in the young reader and make them understand that these three young men were willing to band together for a single cause in spite of the racial tension of the day. This slim book packs a powerful message that says in part that “Unlawful men might be able to stop their car, but not their mission.” This would be an excellent read and discuss book for young people in the homeschool or classroom setting.
Quill says: An important book about an important event in the Civil Rights Movement.