Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961

Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961
Written by Larry Dane Brimner

Publisher’s Summary:
The story of the Freedom Riders, who boarded buses in Washington, D.C., for New Orleans, Louisiana, as a way to draw attention to the lack of enforcement of the laws prohibiting segregation on buses crossing state lines and at bus stations.

Primary Source Pairing:
The journey of the Freedom Riders is a captivating piece of history that captures curious minds to this day. Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 is designed with a visually pleasing balance of text and primary source photographs. Readers will find this to be a page-turning read that concisely depicts the dangerous trip of civil rights activists.

For this primary source pairing, use materials curated in a Library of Congress Primary Source Set available on the Classroom Materials section of the Teacher portion of their extensive website. This Primary Source set is titled “Jim Crow and Segregation” and includes photographs, newspapers, photographs, handbills, a speech, a comic, an oral history interview, and  more. A few of the photographs from this set will look familiar to readers from the book, but the majority of the resources are additional material on this time in history. The photograph included above has been a staple primary source analysis photograph for the students in the 4th grade Civil Rights unit at the school where I teach.

There are so many details to take in through a careful and slow look at the photograph. The background knowledge created through this primary source analysis visual learning experience and the content in the book Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 will add to the important schema readers are building as they learn about the history of our country and how it relates to the current events of today.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • Make a connection to what you know about the segregation of the South and something you observe in this photograph.
  • Make a connection to something you read in the book Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961.

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
“Negro going in colored entrance of movie house on Saturday afternoon, Belzoni, Mississippi Delta, Mississippi,” photograph: Library of Congress
Jim Crow and Segregation Primary Source Set from the Library of Congress:

Related Primary Source Pairings:
March: Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Written John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, Illustrated by Nate Powell

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, Written by Alice Faye Duncan, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Sit In: How Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Separate Is Never Equal, Written and Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story on the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March, Written by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Illustrated by PJ Loughran

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, Written by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Ekua Holmes