The Young Crusaders: The Untold Story of the Children and Teenagers Who Galvanized the Civil Rights Movement

February 23, 2021
The Young Crusaders: The Untold Story of the Children and Teenagers Who Galvanized the Civil Rights Movement

An authoritative history of the overlooked youthactivists that spearheaded the largest protests of the Civil RightsMovement and set the blueprint for future generations of activiststo follow.Some of the most iconic images of the Civil Rights Movement arethose of young people engaged in social activism, such as childrenand teenagers in 1963 being attacked by police in Birmingham withdogs and water hoses. But their contributions have not been welldocumented or prioritized. The Young Crusaders is thefirst book dedicated to telling the story of the hundreds ofthousands of children and teenagers who engaged in sit-ins, schoolstrikes, boycotts, marches, and demonstrations in which Dr. MartinLuther King Jr. and other national civil rights leaders playedlittle or no part.It was these young activists who joined in the largest civilrights demonstration in US history: the system-wide school boycottin New York City on February 3, 1964, where over 360,000 elementaryand secondary school students went on strike and thousands attendedfreedom schools. Later that month, tens of thousands of childrenand teenagers participated in the "Freedom Day" boycotts in Bostonand Chicago, also demanding "quality integrated education."Distinguished historian V. P. Franklin illustrates how theiringenuity made these and numerous other campaigns across thecountry successful in bringing about the end to legalized racialdiscrimination. It was these unheralded young people who set theblueprint for today's youth activists and their campaigns toaddress poverty, joblessness, educational inequality, andracialized violence and discrimination. Understanding the role ofchildren and teenagers transforms how we understand the CivilRights Movement and the broader part young people have played inshepherding social and educational progress, and it serves as amodel for the youth-led "reparatory justice" campaigns seen todaymounted by Black Lives Matter, March for Our Lives, and the SunriseMovement.Highlighting the voices of the young people themselves, Franklinoffers a redefining narrative, complemented by arresting archivalimages. The Young Crusaders reveals a radical history thatboth challenges and expands our understanding of the Civil RightsMovement.