Book Review: They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

It is not often that I read nonfiction, especially nonfiction YA books. When I do, it is usually for my classroom. This book, They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group is one that I had selected to purchase for use in my classroom this year. I chose this text because I am deeply interested in human and civil rights and want to promote an accepting and inviting atmosphere for all students in my classroom.

This is not always easy to do in rural Maine. Our state has been called the "whitest" in the country; our school has less than 1% of students of African American, Asian American, or Latino American descent. Combined. (We do have a stronger showing of Native American students at about 3%.) And, for a state so far from the Mason-Dixon Line, we have an awful lot of Confederate flags on belt buckles and bumper stickers.

I am not implying that there is more racism in our school than in any other across the country. I do think that there is an extreme lack of information about other cultures. So, I purchase books like this one in hopes that students will learn. Here's what this book has to offer:

-A time line of events starting before the Civil War and leading up to the election of President Obama
-A collection of ads, articles, cartoons, drawings, and photographs depicting civil rights issues
-An easy-to-understand representation of historical events, including political movements and policies related to civil rights, voting procedures, and the formation of the KKK
-Reproductions of historical documents, like the Emancipation Proclamation
-Pictures and interview excerpts from former slaves

This book is extremely user and reader-friendly. I am not exactly sure what the reading level is, but it is probably somewhere between 8th and 10th grade. Some sections are easier to understand than others. Overall, I learned a lot about the politics and the agendas of both the American North and South during the years before and after the Civil War.

I think that this is an essential text for classrooms across our country. The information and the visuals contained in this book make it an enticing read for any up-and-coming civil rights activist. Hopefully, some of my students will be inspired to read it and then spread awareness about civil rights. Because the fight is not yet finished.