A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The historical information and details that fill every page to overflowing are most often sobering, but there are some surprising and less serious facts to be discovered, too. For example, by the 1770s, the average American consumed three quarts of molasses each year, and during Prohibition, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives owned and operated a still. Each chapter ends with a "One Hundred Years Later" section that offers a brief overview of how the social issues of that chapter (racial injustice, workers' rights, favoring native-born Americans over immigrants) are still being played out today. There are also timelines of significant past events specific to each chapter.
While U.S. history is filled with violent episodes of social injustice, it's also filled with Americans who risked everything to fight for their rights and the rights of others.
Positive Role Models
Readers will encounter some familiar names (Elizabeth Cady Stanton and W.E.B. Dubois), but most of the heroes and heroines who find themselves briefly mentioned in the story are ordinary men and women who bravely marched, stood up against mob violence, or risked their lives to save others.
Violence & Scariness
Violence in 1919 was directed toward almost anyone (women, African Americans, immigrants, workers) wanting to upset the status quo. Hundreds of African Americans were lynched, some for "offenses" as small as accidentally bumping into a White girl. African American homes and churches were fire bombed and race riots erupted in cities across the United Sates. White mobs rampaged throughout Washington, D.C., with beatings even taking place in front of the White House. Mobs of African Americans and Whites engaged in pitched battles in Chicago. The police, military, and state guardsmen were often called in to put down labor strikes violently. Suffragists were beaten in jail and threatened by mobs.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Readers may be surprised by just how much drinking went on in American history. The ship that brought the Puritans to Massachusetts carried three times more beer than water. By 1820, there was so much liquor available in New England that it was cheaper than tea. There are estimates that during Prohibition, more than 100,000 speakeasys (secret, illegal drinking establishments) operated across America.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Martin W. Sandler's 1919 The Year That Changed America won the 2019 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. The year 1919 was unlike almost any other in American history. Women had finally won the right to vote, Prohibition was about to take effect, and a fear of Communists and anarchists swept the nation. Throughout the year, there would be often unimaginable acts of violence against African Americans and workers protesting low wages and terrible working conditions. The six chapters cover social issues and events many students may already have studied in class (women's suffrage) and others that may be surprising to both readers and their parents (a deadly molasses flood that destroyed parts of Boston's North End). Violence is a thread that runs throughout the book, with lynchings, fire bombings, and rampaging mobs becoming a new normal across America. This is history that's surprising, vividly told and thought-provoking.
Is It Any Good?
Even reluctant readers should be captivated by the wealth of personal stories and archival photos that bring this pivotal year in U.S. history vividly alive. While 1919 The Year That Changed America looks at the nation's past, it also presents provocative questions about the present and how some of the most complex and divisive social issues in American life are still to be resolved.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.