The role of young people in movements for change has become more visible as social media usage has increased. This is not a new phenomenon, though. Children and teens have historically been involved in social movements for change, even if their roles were eclipsed by those of adults with greater individual power. In Kids on the March, by Michael G. Long, we are introduced to some of the activists from this century and the last. I would like to thank NetGalley and Algonquin Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review this book prior to its release.
This chronologically sequenced look back on the history of young people’s marches begins with Mother Jones’ “textile army” in 1903, which marched from Philadelphia all the way to Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home in New York. The children in this march were advocating for their own rights to safe working conditions and better access to educational opportunities. Safety and education are frequent advocacy goals of the youth in Kids on the March, including the strike at Robert Russa Moton High School in 1951 and the “March for Our Lives” in 2018.
Many other marches were for the common good of all people. Some were organized by young people themselves, such as the “School Strike 4 Climate,” and young people served as one part of a larger movement in protests like the “Bonus March” of 1932. Long does a remarkable job of providing factual details about each march, helping readers to visualize what it might have been like to be there. He personalizes many of the events by using photographs and statements from participants, giving readers an idea of the experiences that led to these movements for change.
Regardless of the size of the role they played in organizing the marches, the presence of young people always stood out to those standing on the sidelines, not quite sure if they were ready to participate themselves. That is the reason why books like Kids on the March are so important. Advocacy is not easy. It can even be dangerous. However, knowing that young people have marched throughout history and have contributed to global and national progress is a reminder to children and teens that they have a voice. Long takes us on a trip through United States’ history from 1903 to the present day (ending with the George Floyd protests). By closing the book with “Tips for Marching,” Long invites readers to continue the legacy of these marchers.
Justice 15: I know about some of the people, groups and events in social justice history and about the beliefs and ideas that influenced them.
Action 17: I know how to stand up for myself and for others when faced with exclusion, prejudice and injustice.
Action 20: I will work with friends, family and community members to make our world fairer for everyone, and we will plan and coordinate our actions in order to achieve our goals.