The Freedom Summer Murders
by Don Mitchell
Middle School, High School Scholastic 250 pp.
4/14 978-0-545-47725-3 $18.99
e-book ed. 978-0-545-63393-2 $18.99
The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi
by Susan Goldman Rubin
Middle School, High School Holiday 120 pp.
3/14 978-0-8234-2920-2 $18.95
With the fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer this year, we are bound to see books on the subject (see Deborah Wiles’s Revolution), and these two volumes — both meticulously researched and well documented — provide excellent introductions. Rubin focuses more broadly on Freedom Summer itself: the organizers, the volunteers, the voter registration drives, etc. She conducted many interviews, in person, by telephone, and by e-mail, with people who were directly involved, and their firsthand accounts — along with copious archival black-and-white photographs — bring the events to life. The murders of three young civil rights workers — James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner — are included, but they’re not the central focus as they are in Mitchell’s absorbing book. Like Rubin, he conducted a number of interviews, most with close friends and family members of the men. He provides a fascinating biographical sketch of each, based on these interviews, which gives readers insight into the men’s deep commitment to social justice. Mitchell also gives a thorough account of the search for their bodies, and of the years of investigation that culminated in the 2005 trial of one of the murderers, who was at that time eighty years old. Both volumes are useful; the design and content of Rubin’s book will be more accessible to younger teens, while The Freedom Summer Murders is more compelling. It will grab you from its opening paragraphs and won’t let go until justice is served.