Now in paperback, an enthralling account of a young boy’s struggle to help freedom triumph over fear in the 1940s American South.
It’s 1947, and twelve-year-old Clyde Thomason is proud to have an older brother who guards the Freedom Train—a train that is traveling to all forty-eight states carrying the country’s most important documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Clyde is chosen to say the Freedom Pledge at the train’s stop in Atlanta, but his terrible stage fright forces him to refuse the honor. Instead, it’s the class bully, Phillip, who gets selected, and he begins to torment Clyde. When an African-American boy saves him from a beating, Clyde is shocked. Especially when he learns that William lives in the white part of town. How can this be? And why can’t he bring himself to be friends with William?
Clyde hasn’t told his parents he won’t perform the pledge, nor has he mentioned his confusing friendship with a boy of color. So when the townspeople threaten William’s family, Clyde has a choice to make: Will he keep quiet, or stand up for real freedom?
Ideal for classrooms, Freedom Train contains historical photos of the Freedom Train and its guards, as well as an author’s note that provides additional information about the history of the Freedom Train.
Set in Atlanta in 1947, Coleman's (Born in Sin) novel looks at charged emotions in the segregated South. Twelve-year-old Clyde lives in the "mill village," where his mother works long hours to support their family. Clyde looks forward to letters from his older brother Joseph, a WWII marine who is a guard on the Freedom Train, which is carrying the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and other significant documents on a nationwide tour. William, an African-American boy who's adept with a slingshot, rescues Clyde from a pummeling by the class bully; initially conflicted about befriending William, Clyde realizes that he doesn't want to be someone "who don't want to speak up when something ain't right." Coleman convincingly depicts Clyde's gradual awakening to the racism that surrounds him, as well as the prejudice his impoverished family faces ("People kept staring at us like we was the monkeys at a show," Clyde thinks when his father treats them to tea at a fancy department store restaurant). Despite the book's somewhat sluggish pace, historically minded readers should enjoy this snapshot of America's past. Ages 8-12.