Each week, an accomplished published author takes over the YEM Twitter account for Thursday’s Twitter Takeover. Each week, the YA author will answer questions, tell stories, and give advice on our social media. This week author Michael G. Long will be taking over our Twitter account.
Countless pivotal moments in US history began with feet hitting the pavement. From the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, marching has been an essential way for Americans to make their voices heard. When discussing the legacy of protest in America, though, we often forget some of the most significant agents of change: young people. In the new middle-grade nonfiction book Kids on the March, Dr. Michael G. Long, who has spent his entire career studying the lives of such remarkable figures as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and Bayard Rustin, fills this historical gap. This unforgettable manifesto for young activists brilliantly relays 15 stories of passionate youth who transformed our country.
Kids on the March zeroes in on these courageous children to share the history of peaceful protest and to inspire and motivate the next generation of marchers. Among others, Long features the following young change makers:
- Fifteen-year-old Barbara Johns, who in 1953 organized a school strike protesting the poor conditions of her all-Black high school in Farmville, Virginia, paving the way for Brown v. the Board of Education and beginning the process of school desegregation.
- Thirteen-year-old Mary Beth Tinker and her older brother John, who protested the Vietnam War in 1965 by wearing black armbands to school. When the school punished them for expressing their “controversial” beliefs, they stood their ground, leading to Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court case that now guarantees free speech in public schools.
- Thirteen-year-old Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer, who in 2016 petitioned to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline that threatened to pollute the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. The battle to permanently stop this pipeline continues, but due to Anna and her fellow protestors, it has been put on hold until a full environmental assessment is completed.
- Eighteen-year-old Emma González and her classmates, who demanded an end to gun violence after a tragic shooting at their high school in Parkland, Florida in 2018. While their fight for gun legislation continues to this day, the Parkland students raised global awareness of this issue, sparking 750 rallies in every state and every continent except Antarctica.
- Sixteen-year-old Shayna Avery and her friends, who called upon their community in Berkeley, California, to join the “Stand with Black Youth March” in 2020, after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Due to the efforts of Avery and activists like her, the George Floyd protests spread across the country and the globe, leading some police departments to ban the use of choke holds, and many companies to change brands that perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
As the author or editor of many books on civil rights, LGBTQ rights, protest movements, religion, and politics, Long has spent his life elevating voices that have been too often ignored. “When working on an adult book about protest movements, I kept coming across photographs of children and young people who had participated in these protests,” says Long. “The photos made me wonder about the kids: Who were they? What were their lives like? What was so important to them that they felt compelled to protest? . . . I resolved to write a book focused only on those brave, bold kids whose contributions to US history have been ignored. . . Kids on the March tells stories about these young people not only to educate young readers, but also to inspire them to stand up, straighten their backs, and shout what young people have been shouting for decades —‘Let’s march!’”
For every kid who watched 2020 unfold and wondered, what can I do? Kids on the March provides the tools to move forward.