Author: Deborah Diesen

Plot Summary: This picture book tells the story of a friendship between two boys in the early 1960s in Mississippi: Joe, who is white, and John Henry, who is African American. They love to swim and they spend time in the creek, because the town pool is closed to John Henry. When the boys want ice pops, Joe goes into the store to buy them, because John Henry is not allowed into the store. After the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the town pool is required to be open to everyone, but when the boys arrive at the pool, the pool is being emptied and filled with asphalt. John Henry says, "White folks don't want colored folks in their pool." Joe thinks to himself, "I want to go to the Dairy Dip with John Henry, sit down and share root beer floats. . . . I want to see this town with John Henry's eyes." At the end of the story, the boys walk together into the store to buy ice pops.

Posted In: Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

Discussion Questions:

Why is the book called Freedom Summer? Who is free in the story? Who is not?
Are Joe and John Henry friends?
Why does John Henry eat in the kitchen at Joe’s house, while Joe and his family eat in the dining room?
Why isn’t John Henry allowed in the store? Who decides?
Who controls the town pool? Why is it filled with asphalt after the law requires it to be open to everyone?
Why don’t “white folks want colored folks in their pool?” Why is the pool considered the white folks’ pool?
What does Joe mean when he thinks that he “wants to see the town with John Henry’s eyes?” Is this possible?
When the boys walk into the store at the end of the story, who is taking the greater risk? Why?