Gruwell introduces her students to the diary of Anne Frank and other books about freedom and survival. Inspired, the students raise money to bring Miep Gies, whose family helped shelter Anne Frank, to speak at their school.
The Freedom Writers Diary includes journal entries organized by the fall and spring terms of the student writers' four years of high school. Each term is further divided into numerous diary entries written by Erin Gruwell and her students. This study guide groups some of the entries for the purpose of summary and analysis.
The book's foreword is written by Zlata Filipović. She writes of how she met the Freedom Writers when she visited California and how touched she was that her book inspired them to keep their own diaries. Zlata explains how she started writing her own diary, never knowing it would become a war diary.
book reviews185 These private journals contain the author's immediate, candid descriptions ofimportant persons and events ofConfederate history as well as her depiction ofpersonal life and concerns. Chesnut used them in the 1880s as the basis for an expanded literary work which she composed in diary form. She significantly revised the journal accounts, often omitting indiscreet or personal segments. Not published before her death (1886), this manuscript was twice extensively edited and issued as A Diaryfrom Dixie (1905, 1949); and, edited by Woodward, it appeared in 1981 as Mary Chesnut's Civil War. Chesnut's work has traditionally been an important resource for scholars. Now, The Private Mary Chesnut permits a more direct experience with Civil War events and luminaries as Chesnut privately described them, and with Chesnut herself. Chesnut's complex personal characteristics show clearly in these original diary entries. Although a slaveholder, she deplored slavery ("a monstrous system"); and, while a Southern lady in a male environment, she had strong feminist tendencies ("Oh, if I could put some of my reckless spirit into these discreet, cautious, lazy men"). An intelligent woman who attracted admirerers, she could nevertheless be a severe judge. Confederate notables were among her regular acquaintances but her private opinions were often harsh. Jefferson and Varina Davis, for example, were coarse-spoken; the president was "greedy for military fame"; and William L. Yancey was "a common creature." Chesnut was particularly caustic concerning women she disliked. One, she declared, was a "horrid woman," while others were "fat and stupid." She intended herjournals "to be entirely objective," and her observations were accordingly direct. Chesnut's diaries provide a poignant first-hand account of the disintegration of Southern loyalty in 1865, blacks' reaction to freedom, her fears of Union troops, and her loss of fortune after the war. The Private Mary Chesnut, in short, is of major value, providing access to Chesnut's unamended account of her Civil War experiences and to the more personal qualities ofone ofthe war period's best-known writers. John R. Brumgardt The Charleston Museum Legend ofthe Free State ofJones. By Rudy H. Leverett. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1984. Pp. xii, 131. Paper, $7.95.) Legends die hard. Some are even larger than the truth they claim to relate, such as the elaborate mythology that developed around Robert E. Lee after his death. Some use tragic demise as a catapult to glory, such as those which prosper about Lincoln, Albert Sidney Johnston, and Stonewall Jackson . Some are merely harmless, such as the one about Abner Doubleday inventing baseball in 1839. 186CIVIL war history The legend of Newton (Newt) Knight and the Republic ofJones may fit none ofthese categories, but its status in Mississippi folklore is established. Briefly, here are some aspects ofthe legend: Jones County, located in the Piney Woods ofsoutheastern Mississippi, allegedly seceded from the Confederacy in 1864 in a paroxysm of Unionism. Thenceforth known as the Republic ofJones or the Free State ofJones, the Republic formed its own army and government (headed by Knight), and tenaciously held off Confederate military attempts to restore the county to the Confederacy. All legends have some basis in fact. There was a Newt Knight; there was (and is) a Jones County; and diere was an organization called the Republic of Jones. But there, as Leverett carefully shows, the truth ends and the myths begin. Newt Knight, far from being a Unionist, was a Confederate deserter who apparendy organized other deserters into a loosely knit band which preyed on both Confederate and Federal supply lines and officials. The "Republic ofJones" appears to have been the name given to one such band ofdeserters which roamed the county. Such groups were commonplace throughout the South as the war wound to an end. As Confederate military discipline declined, many troops simply left dieir units and went home for no odier reasons dian tiiose which soldiers always have for wanting to go home. Some efforts were made to reclaim them, but usually with litde success. Such seems to be the gist of die "Free State ofJones." This is a hard book to categorize. At first glance it seems to be popular history, with its pictures of Van Heflin and Susan... 2b1af7f3a8