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Freedom Riders : John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the front lines of the civil rights movement

Bausum, Ann author

Publication Details Click to collapse Cite/Export

  • Creator by Ann Bausum ; forewords by Freedom Riders Congressman John Lewis and Jim Zwerg
  • Format Books
  • Publication Washington, D.C. : National Geographic, ©2006.
  • Physical Details
    • 79 pages : illustrations ; 29 cm
  • ISBNs 9780792241737, 0792241738, 9780792241744, 0792241746
  • OCLC ocm60373657, ocn648795271


  • How did two youths-one raised in an all-black community in the deep South, the other brought up with only whites in the Midwest-become partners for freedom during the civil rights movement of the 1960s? Freedom Riders compares and contrasts the childhoods of John Lewis and James Zwerg in a way that helps young readers understand the segregated experience of our nation's past. It shows how a common interest in justice created the convergent path that enabled these young men to meet. This book introduces young readers (grade 5 and up) to the concept of nonviolent resistance as practiced by Zwerg, Lewis, and their classmates in Nashville, Tennessee. These students broke the color barrier at local movie theaters using this form of protest. Freedom Riders conveys the history of the Freedom Rides through the shared experiences of Lewis and Zwerg. No other book on the subject has used such a personal perspective. These two young men, empowered by their successes in Nashville, were among those who volunteered to continue the Freedom Rides after violence in Anniston, Alabama, left the original bus in flames with the riders injured and in retreat. Lewis and Zwerg joined the cause knowing their own fate could be equally harsh, if not worse, when the Freedom Ride penetrated deeper into the South. When these new participants arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, Zwerg and Lewis were singled out by a mob numbering in the hundreds armed with chains, bats, and hammers. The two youths were nearly beaten to death before police stepped forward to end the violence. The two surviving photographs from their experience provide testimony to the severity of their attacks. Release of these images along with accounts of the violence in Montgomery served to focus national attention on the Freedom Rides. Waves of volunteers came South to continue them. Freedom Riders summarizes the history of the subsequent rides and their success at ending discriminatory seating on Southern interstate bus service. It concludes by relating the divergent paths of Lewis and Zwerg. Lewis rose to prominence with continued participation in the civil rights movement. He became a U.S. Congress member in 1986. Zwerg, at the encouragement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., took up the ministry, a career he continued for 20 years until turning to community service and business. The book is stunningly illustrated with 50 duotoned historical photos and detailed maps. It includes a resource guide of landmarks and references and a related chronology.


  • Includes bibliographical references (page 77) and index.


  • Foreword / Jim Zwerg -- John Lewis -- Introduction -- Black America -- White America -- Common ground -- Early rides -- Blood brothers -- Rolling on -- Separate paths -- Afterword: Toward one America -- Partial roster of Riders -- Chronology -- Resource guide -- Research notes & acknowledgments
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