Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

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

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

Ann Bausum
For ages 10 and up
National Geographic, 2005   ISBN: 978-0792241744

Every so often we are lucky enough to encounter someone who worries about world as a whole, someone who believes that it is important to do what is necessary for the good of all. John Lewis and Jim Zwerg were two such people. They came from different worlds. John was black and from the South, and Jim was white and from “lily white” Appleton, Wisconsin. Both, however, came to feel that the racial injustices in their country could no longer be tolerated, and both became part of the Civil Rights Movement. They participated in stand-ins, demonstrations and speeches. They were beaten for their efforts, and John was arrested.

Perhaps the biggest contribution that they made was to join the Freedom Riders which was a truly remarkable demonstration of courage and determination. On these rides demonstrators from all over the country rode around the Deep South in buses hoping to encourage others to join the movement and forcing people to accept that segregated interstate public transportation was no longer acceptable. Though a law existed which made such segregation illegal, the bus companies behaved as if the laws “did not exist.” So groups of activists began to ride on the buses hoping that their actions would force the Justice Department to see that the laws of the land were being ignored.

This often shocking, deeply disturbing, and very moving account of what happened to two civil rights activists is powerful and a wonderful tribute to all the men and women who participated in this fight for freedom. Readers will come to see how strong these two men and their comrades had to be and how strong their convictions were to continue the fight against terrible odds. Packed with large and annotated photographs and including maps, a chronology, and more, this book is a must for anyone who does not yet know what it took to break down the racial barriers in the United States.

Forewords written by both Jim Zwerg and John Lewis give the book a very personal touch.