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Students on Strike: Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Brown, and Me

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  • Posted June 5, 2013

    Mrs. Cuthbertson's Core 1 (6th Grade Class Book Review)  Vista P

    Mrs. Cuthbertson's Core 1 (6th Grade Class Book Review) 
    Vista PEAK Exploratory, Aurora, CO

    Have you heard of the text Students on Strike by John A. Stokes? It is a true story about a young African American boy who had to do a brave and smart thing to fight segregation in the Jim Crow South. 

     In 1876 through 1965 the Jim Crow South was very segregated and whites enjoyed basic rights that black people didn’t, because in the Jim Crow South if you were not white then you were considered inferior. For example, African Americans or “Negroes” (what whites called the blacks during this time) had to sit in the back of the bus while whites were in the front. Also, in this time there were segregated bathrooms, schools, restaurants, hospitals, movie theaters, churches, and even military bases. It wasn’t until 1951, when John A. Stokes joined a group that led a strike against the white school board, that things started to change for the black community. It was not until the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that things really began to change in the Jim Crow South.  

    When the book begins, John is a twelve-year-old “colored” boy who lived on a farm. He had to take responsibility in his life.  He, along with his five siblings, also had to help his mom and dad by working on the farm. In the 1950’s in Prince Edward County, Virginia, like most of the Jim Crow South, Virginia was segregated so John’s life was unfair. At the beginning of the book, John was hiding when it was dark outside because nighttime was dangerous for black children. “Whenever and wherever colored children are walking after dark, we are taught to take cover in ditches and gullies, behind bushes and trees, in culverts, or in any safe hiding place as soon as we hear or see a car approaching,” (pg. 9).

    As a high schooler he went to the Northern United States (with Carrie and his older sister). There they learned about how these two places were in the same country but completely opposite. When he was a student at Robert Russa Moton High School he decided to take a stand. He decided to organize a strike with some of his friends. He wanted to first get a bigger and better high school, like the school the white students attended. Then, after talking to the NAACP, they decided to fight for the very first integrated high school in the Jim Crow South. To find out what happened, you’ll have to read the book!

    John A .Stokes won multiple awards throughout his life. We believe the author wants people in the United States to treat each other equally. We think that the most important thing that the author wanted us to walk away with was to not judge a person by their skin color or race because he ended the story with a poem that states, ”Look not at the face nor the color of a person’s skin, but look at the heart which is deep within. John A Stokes helped change the segregated school system forever.

    Overall, the text Students on Strike is an excellent book because of the balance of history and the author’s life. It shows how the author and his family and friends dealt with their life in the Jim Crow South, and how they helped stop most of the segregation in their county. In the beginning, John A. Stokes wasn’t able to talk to any white people. He was offered a bite of toast (from a white girl) but he couldn’t accept it. “She stood in the kitchen door still eating the toast, and said in a soft voice ‘I’m not going to bite you! Why did you run? I’m not poison, you know.’” In the end, he changed his school, fought for integration, and was even part of a Supreme Court case. The way he describes it is like being in a world where everyone is against you just because of the way you look, whether it’s your fault or not. It also describes how black people were mistreated and how they dealt with it. The author also shares the ideas of racism, segregation and integration.This book has a very extensive vocabulary with words like endeavor and bondage, and the book is very informative. This is a book for people who like history or who want to learn more about racism and segregation. We would say this book is for readers ages 11+, due to some language and content. We give the book 4 out of 5 stars because of all of the great vocabulary and the lessons it teaches readers.

    If YOU read this book you will love it like we did. It will amaze and surprise. John A. Stokes had to overcome some obstacles to get to his goal. So, if you like shocking, historical and informative books then this book is for you. We all loved it!

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