phillip hoose, claudette colvin
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Phillip Hoose, Author of “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice"

March 11, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
Multitalented author and historian Phillip Hoose has written books and articles, performed in the band Chipped Enamel and founded the Children’s Music Network. But Hoose is best known for his young adult book “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” which is perhaps the most thorough and important work about the underreported life of the early civil rights activist.

Hoose’s Myriad Interests

Hoose graduated from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science, and since 1977, he’s been a Nature Conservancy staff member. He’s even pursued the Ivory-billed woodpecker, but the environment is just one of his passions.

According to his Web site, Hoose coauthored a picture book with his daughter called “Hey, Little Ant,” and his book “Perfect Once Removed: When Baseball Was All the World to Me,” was among Booklist’s Top 10 Sports Books of 2007. U.S. history is also a favorite subject of his, culminating with “We Were There Too!: Young People in U.S. History,” a National Book Award Finalist.
Hoose’s early work displays his curious nature and a journalist’s persistence, Colin F. Boyle suggests in a 1989 Harvard Crimson article. Hoose’s book, “Necessities,” addresses racism in sports, particularly among higher-ups and management in America’s professional baseball and football leagues. Hoose allows prejudices to “reveal themselves in interviews with players, coaches, scouts and broadcasters,” Boyle writes.

Who Is Claudette Colvin?

In 1955, a number of black women were arrested, refusing to give up their seats to white passengers, beginning with 15-year-old Claudette Colvin in March. The Montgomery National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) considered launching a protest based on her arrest, but it instead chose Rosa Parks, secretary of the local branch of the NAACP, to be the symbol of the protest, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

In short, Claudette Colvin did “precisely what Rosa Parks did,” but without the fanfare or recognition. As Jennifer M. Brown explains for School Library Journal, Colvin was only 15 years old when she essentially paved “the way for one of the most important chapters in the history of the Civil Rights Movement.”

“Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice”

Hoose first learned of Colvin’s profoundly under-appreciated life while working on “We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History.” He tells Brown, “The idea that someone could have had such enormous courage at such a young age is remarkable, and I wanted to find her.” Ultimately, it took about four years for the two to finally meet, according to School Library Journal. 

Hoose spoke with PBS News Hour about his book “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” which won the National Book Award for young people’s literature in 2009. He explains that the book “was as much about how she felt and why she did things ... how her friends took it, how her parents took it.” In addition to the “many complicating factors” that prevented Colvin from being “the poster child for challenging segregation,” she was also at risk of being just a brief mention in history books, Hoose suggests.

The New York Times elaborates on Colvin’s experience and childhood. She “questioned everything” and surprised her family and classmates “when she stopped straightening her hair and challenged the dominance of the light-skinned, popular girls at school,” for instance.

Learning About the Civil Rights Movement

Discovery Education has a Civil Rights Movement lesson plan for grades 6-8. Students create a single volume Children’s Encyclopedia of the Civil Rights Movement for first-graders, and incorporate articles about civil rights leaders and “the ordinary people who made a difference in the movement.”

PBS Teachers offers several civil rights-themed lesson plans for grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Book suggestions are included with each lesson, and may be adjusted to meet students’ reading level.

The Library of Congress Voices of Civil Rights exhibition has a reading list for students, including younger readers, containing books about the civil rights era. The Library also provides civil rights resources for the classroom, which focus on “the fight for voting rights as well as the racial history of the United States in sports and schools.” This section utilizes a variety of legal documents, maps, music, letters and more to give students a better sense of the turbulent period.

FindingDulcinea’s Civil Rights Movement Web Guide is stocked with primary and secondary sources on the subject, and addresses the oral history of the Civil Rights Movement.

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