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Racism, Our Judicial System, and Discrimination in New Adaptation of the Acclaimed Just Mercy for the YA Audience

Updated on October 1, 2018
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Cindy Hewitt is a retired teacher with a passion for children's literature. Read-aloud stories add quality to a child's life experiences.

Great Read for Students to Explore the Important Topics of Racism, Laws, and our Judicial System

Great read for young readers to explore racism and the law
Great read for young readers to explore racism and the law | Source

Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice-Adapted for Young Adults

Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy:Adapted for Young Readers: A True Story of the Fight for Justice introduces young readers in middle school to the important topic of racism, discrimination in our judicial system, and wrongly incarcerated African Americans throughout the history of our court system. Bryan Stevenson is an attorney who has argued many cases during his career to secure the release of wrongly incarcerated African Americans. He recounts his successes with stories in his adapted version of his acclaimed first release of Just Mercy back in 2014. This adapted version is a good read for young students of history who want to have a better understanding of our judicial system and the discrimination that still exists. Stevenson writes with clarity and abbreviated versions of each story of a person who has been wrongly accused so that young readers can easily comprehend the challenges that each person has experienced. Each chapter in his new adapted version recounts a story with details of the supposed crime and the treatment that the person received during the journey through our judicial system. The story of Walter McMillian is retold along with other stories of persons who entered the judicial system and were wrongly incarcerated. Stories from both northern and southern states are included in this adaptation. Many of the stories involve persons who found themselves on death row. He recounts stories of police brutality, a current and ongoing topic in the news today. Stevenson has a firm grasp on the idea that poverty is the opposite of justice in our judicial system. Young readers will readily understand the elements that African Americans face when they enter the judicial system. Stevenson includes a comprehensive index of a variety of topics that are addressed in his book. The historical elements that he includes in his book are some that might not be found in history books that students currently have in classes. These historical elements make this an important addition to studies for our children in the middle grades today. Students will find this to be an interesting account of history going back to the 50's, 60's, and 70's with hardships that African Americans encountered. The important take-away lesson for students after reading is that everyone is entitled to mercy and grace and that "we can do better for one another. The work continues."

A Wealth of History for the Middle Grades

Just Mercy Adapted for Young Adults: A True Story of the Fight for Justice is a must-have addition for classrooms that teach social issues, history, and law. The book contains a wealth of ideas for teachers to include in lessons on these subjects. The comprehensive index contains ideas and resources for interesting lessons. The book can be assigned for individual reading for students and enhanced activities can be added after reading.

*Assign the book as an individual reading for class. Begin with the history of Walter McMillian, the principal character in these real life stories for the fight for justice for wrongly incarcerated African Americans.

*Assign some topics for individual reports from the large variety of topics in the comprehensive index. This index presents topics with page numbers for students to explore and gives a wealth of ideas for individual interest and reports.

*Students might want to explore the Supreme Court issues that have been part of discrimination through the years.

*There are many references to legal organizations that students might like to explore. The NAACP, The Equal Justice Institute, and the Southern Center for Human Rights are just a few that students might like to explore.

*The Department of Justice is a topic that can be introduced to students. Several rules and rulings in cases of wrongly incarcerated persons are listed in the comprehensive index for exploration.

*The "Stand Your Ground" laws in several states is also a topic that is listed in the index for students to explore. This is a current topic that students have heard on the news and is an ongoing issue.

Teaching Justice in Our Classrooms

What topics are of interest to your students in the middle grades that involve justice in our country?

See results

© 2018 Cindy Hewitt


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