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Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement Hardcover – December 27, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-9 The incredible courage and determination of young people, black, white, male and female, who risked great personal danger and even death as they participated in the freedom rides during the Civil Rights Movement are the focus of this remarkable book. History is told through the experiences of two young men of disparate backgrounds, one black John Lewis, the other white Jim Zwerg. A foreword by each man precedes chapters that compare and contrast their families, childhoods, and teenage years, and the events leading up to, and their participation in, the historic rides of the early 1960s. Dramatic black-and-white photographs, accompanied by clear, engaging captions, support the text. Each of the seven chapters is preceded by a full-page photograph. Bausum's narrative style, fresh, engrossing, and at times heart-stopping, brings the story of the turbulent and often violent dismantling of segregated travel alive in vivid detail. The language, presentation of material, and pacing will draw readers in and keep them captivated. Final chapters reveal the paths Lewis's and Zwerg's lives took after the end of the rides, and both men reflect back on that period. A partial roster of riders with brief profiles, an illustrated time line of key moments in the Civil Rights Movement, a resource guide and notes, and a list of further reading conclude the book. A definite first purchase. Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 6-9. In another excellent work of nonfiction, the author of the acclaimed With Courage and Cloth (2004), covers a civil rights topic less frequently addressed than Brown v. Board of Education 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 © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1090L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0792241738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792241737
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 0.4 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ann Bausum writes about U.S. history from her home in Wisconsin, and speaks across the country about her work as an author. In 2014 the National Geographic Society published her first book for adults simultaneously with her tenth work for younger readers. Both books--Sergeant Stubby and Stubby the War Dog--celebrate the almost-forgotten story of a stray dog smuggled to Europe during World War I who returned to the United States after serving in the trenches and became a national celebrity.

These books are the latest works from a career of writing about under-told stories from the past. Her works for young readers have earned consistent recognition from librarians, peers, and reviewers. Marching to the Mountaintop (2012) won the Carter G. Woodson Award (middle grade level) from the National Council for the Social Studies and was a Jane Addams Children's Book Honor title. Other recent works include Unraveling Freedom (2010), another book that captures forgotten history from World War I, and Denied, Detained, Deported (2009) which also received the Carter G. Woodson Award (secondary level).

Muckrakers (2007) earned the Golden Kite Award as best nonfiction book of the year from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Freedom Riders (2006) gained Sibert Honor designation from the American Library Association, and With Courage and Cloth (2004) received the Jane Addams Children's Book Award as the year's best book on social justice issues for older readers. These and other titles appear on numerous lists of recommended and notable books.

Bausum's other books chronicle the nation's chief executives and their spouses--Our Country's Presidents (2013, 4th edition) and Our Country's First Ladies (2007)--as well as the exploits of intrepid explorer Roy Chapman Andrews (Dragon Bones and Dinosaur Eggs, 2000). Find out more about the author, her writing, and her author appearance programs at: Follow her on Facebook.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on February 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover

"Why did I participate in the Freedom Rides? The answer is simple. It was the right thing to do."

--Jim Zwerg

"What's that I hear now ringing in my ears

I've heard that sound before

What's that I hear now ringing in my ears

I hear it more and more

It's the sound of freedom calling

Ringing up to the sky

It's the sound of the old ways a-falling

You can hear it if you try

You can hear it if you try"

--Phil Ochs

During the spring of 1961, Jim Zwerg boarded a train for Nashville, Tennessee where he was signed up to participate in an exchange program at Fisk University. He would end up meeting John Lewis and getting involved in the Nashville Student Movement. That May, ignoring his mother's pleas not to do so, Zwerg would join a group of brave young people and take a bus ride to end segregation. That bus ride nearly cost Jim Zwerg his life when he and the other so-called Freedom Riders were set upon by a mob of hundreds that had been lying in wait for their arrival at the Montgomery, Alabama Greyhound station:

"Mob members threw him over a railing, knocked him to the ground, kicked him in the back, and stepped on his face. Zwerg blacked out, oblivious to the continued assault. Attackers pulled him into a headlock and punched his face. Women pounded him with their handbags. When he slumped to the ground, people kicked him in the groin, ribs, and face, then hauled him up to repeat the cycle.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book chronicles in vivid detail the Freedom Rides of 1961, a critical event in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Bausum tells the story from the perspective of two Freedom Riders, John Lewis and Jim Zwerg, who together with other young people, boarded a Greyhound bus to test Southern compliance with federal rules about integration of bus stations and interstate travel. The backgrounds of the two men couldn't have been more different: Lewis was black and grew up poor in the segregated South; Zwerg was white, and had a typical middle class childhood of the time. The two young men did have an interesting thing in common--both preached their first sermons as teenagers.

Bausum takes an historical event that normally might receive one or two lines in a textbook and fleshes out the story with compelling detail. According to her introduction, she traveled 4,000 miles, and interviewed countless people to bring this story to life. We learn about the incredible courage of the Freedom Riders, who faced hostile and violent mobs, but who didn't back down. At the end of the book, Bausum has a brief biography of several of the Freedom Riders. Many of then did well in life, but I was surprised to learn many of them were permanently scarred both physically and emotionally by their participation in the Civil Rights movement. I think it's important that we remember their stories and the sacrifices that they made. This book would be an excellent starting point for young adults learning about this important part of our history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Edvin B. Szabo on June 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very good book lots of shocking pictures. Finally a book that is talking about Jim Zwerg who fought and risked his life for another race and benefited from it NOTHING. Great man!!!
Highly reccomended.
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By Stephanie R on November 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Freedom Riders was a great story about two men who boarded a bus during the Civil Rights Movement ready to spread their idealism, courage and beliefs in justice. This story was very inspirational, I learned tons about the Civil Rights movement that happened in the 50's and 60's. The use of pictures in the story really added to the value of the story and helped protray the reality of the entire situation and what these two men stepped up against all to defend the rights of colored people in America. Ann Bausum really connects to all readers just by simply capturing both the white and black perspectives and segregation through the eyes of the Freedom Riders. She also takes a story that is usually shared within a section of a chapter of the history books, disects the truth behind everything and unwinds the ideas into a story filled with compelling detail. I would really recommend this book for young readers who are studying this part of America's history.
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