Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March Book Poster Image
Vivid recollections of a teen girl in the Selma march.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom offers an inside look at the Selma voting rights march through the eyes of a teenager who was involved in the demonstration. It gives an often unseen perspective: how children and teens helped lead the movement and were arrested so often they began packing lunches each day so they could eat while in jail.

Positive Messages

The book offers incredible positive messages for young people who are motivated to address -- or are already actively involved in addressing -- the injustices they see in today's world by showing how other youth did it many years ago.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The many young people who were active in the movement provide strong role models. Lynda Blackmon Lowery, her family, and others all supported each other during the march, offered comfort when needed, and always demonstrated great care and compassion for one another.

Violence

Covers intimidation, beatings, and the deaths of protestors. It also covers the abuse of protesters and non-protesting blacks alike by police, deputized citizens, and hate groups during the time period around the Selma voting rights march. The beatings of both children and adults are described in detail with mentions of blood, fainting, and stitches. Other adults who were actually killed were described as being shot in the head and bleeding out. There are pictures from Bloody Sunday. Though blood isn't seen, police officers can be seen beating unarmed people and shooting tear gas. The violence is not glamorized.

Sex
Language

References to people swearing and calling African-Americans racial epithets, but words are not expressly stated. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom is the memoir of Lynda Blackmon Lowery, who as a young girl participated in the voting rights march of 1965 from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. It discusses the use of racial epithets and intimidation used against protesters during the march and shows some historical violence against both children and adults, violence that has been well documented in the media and historical accounts. But here, readers get the rare perspective of a young schoolgirl. The publisher recommends this for kids age 12 and up, but the simple prose is easy to read, so it could be OK for younger readers. It's a great resource for conversations about social injustice in the United States.

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What's the story?

Lynda's a student who's ready to make life better for the people she loves. As a civil rights protester, Lynda joins hundreds of students who, each day, stand up in the face of violence and hatred to gain access to the basic rights that all other Americans have. She's arrested for protesting nine times before her 15th birthday. After marching on what will be known as Bloody Sunday, Lynda, battered and bloodied, has a choice to make: continue to march or let fear overcome the desire to be free. Does she have what it takes? 

Is it any good?

Author Lynda Blackmon Lowery does a nice job adapting her story in an easy-to-follow format for a wide range of readers. Her voice is one that's not often heard; this is a story told from the perspective of a young student protestor involved in the movement. Often the adults and their impact are the main focus of such historical accounts, but Lowery shows clearly that students were charged with organizing and carrying out daily protests -- missing school to do so. Through her vivid recollections, Lowery adeptly conveys the excitement, terror, hesitation, fear, and determination the students experienced.

The addition of both archived photos and illustrations help support the story well. TURNING 15 ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM would be a great resource for any discussion of the civil rights movement or modern youth-led protests, including those in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and beyond. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the use of media in both the period surrounding the Selma march and the Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City protests about police violence against African-American men. How did media propel both incidents into the national spotlight?

  • Families also can talk about how they can use their resources to fight injustice. What can you do right now as a child to help stand up for people who are being marginalized?

  • What was the importance of the Voting Rights Act? Why is it important to vote? Does it make a difference?

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