A heartfelt, unflinching novel about the unexpected effects of school integration in 1960’s Louisiana. This story has striking resonances with the issues our nation currently faces regarding race, unity, and identity.

Louisiana, 1969. Colleen, a white northern teacher enters into the unfamiliar culture of a small southern town and its unwritten rules as the town surrenders to mandated school integration. Frank, a black high school football player, protects his family with a secret. Can Evelyn, a prized member of the black community put aside her distrust and value Colleen’s unproven efforts?

Told alternately, by Colleen, an idealistic young white teacher; Frank, a black high school football player and Evelyn, an experienced black teacher, Freedom Lessons ~ A Novel is the story of how the lives of these three very different people intersect in a rural Louisiana town in 1969.

Colleen enters into the culture of the rural Louisiana town with little knowledge of the customs and practices. She is compelled to take sides after the school is integrated - an overnight event for which the town’s residents are unprepared and which leads to confusion and anxiety in the community - and her values are tested as she seeks to understand her black colleagues, particularly Evelyn. Why doesn’t  she want to integrate the public schools? Frank, meanwhile, is determined to protect his mother and siblings after his father’s suspicious death - which means keeping a secret from everyone around him.

The author taught in Louisiana in 1969-70, and the story is based on her experience there.

New Orleans Riverboat 1969

New Orleans Riverboat 1969

 

About Eileen

 

Freedom Lessons: Meeting Jim Crow is a fictionalized version of the year I spent teaching in a rural Louisiana town in the late 1960s.

My life's work has been as an advocate for free, appropriate and respectful educational opportunity for all students. 

I am retired after a forty-year career in public education.

Freedom Lessons: Meeting Jim Crow will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction and those interested in a broader view of our current civil rights and public school challenges. 

History could guide us if we would only listen. 

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"She heard his shout over a rumbling noise that vibrated the metal walls of the trailer. Confused and worried that he was in trouble she threw open the trailer door to find him sitting on a motorcycle with a helmet on his head and one in his hand."

1969 unpacking

"Her resolve to make the best of the situation faded. The inside of the trailer was like an oven with the sun beating down on the metal enclosure. She dropped the box she was carrying and sat as she broke into tears." 

1969 our first home

"Turquoise is a color I like to wear, not live in. We decided not to go to New Orleans for a honeymoon. Instead, we went to Sears to buy an air conditioner."

“Don’t look so shocked,Colleen," Evelyn said. "Some folks think we should be grateful that we have a Negro school: 'Separate but Equal'. My friend had to set up a new classroom in a white school this year and she found out that they store the books in different stockrooms. If they can’t even mix the books, how will they mix the students and the teachers?”
—Freedom Lessons