Summary/reflection Uncle Jed’s Barbershop
By: Margaree King Mitchell
Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree Kim Mitchell illustrates the hopes and aspirations of an American man in the midst of segregation and the Great Depression in Mississippi. African American barbers were rare and Uncle Jed was the only Black barber in the county. Holding fast onto his dream of opening up his own barbershop, Uncle Jed always spoke to his niece, Sarah Jean, and envisioned what his shop would look like with all sorts of fancy equipment. Dreams like Uncle Jed’s were considered to be uncommon as the poor South simply accommodated the lifestyles of sharecroppers. Unfortunately, Uncle Jed encountered numerous setbacks – from Sarah Jean’s emergency operation to the economic crash of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, he overcame all odds and opened up his barbershop at the age of 79.
How the book would be used in the classroom.
The story in Uncle Jed’s Barbershop takes place in a rich context. Various aspects of the book can be used in the classroom. The book can be included in a unit on segregation, exploring the life in the South during the 1920s and 1930s. Using Uncle Jed’s fictional story, students can research biographies of people in literature who lived during this time period. The book can be used to study a unit on the Great Depression – how it affected the economy on a large and small scale. Students can also study community jobs.
Domains of Social Justice Education
♦ Self Love and Acceptance – Through the experiences of Uncle Jed – his hardships, struggles, and successes – Sarah Jean learns about her own culture. Uncle Jed’s determination enabled her to embrace who she and her family is and taught her how to dream.
♦ Exploring Issues of Social Justice – Sarah Jean’s experience at the hospital illustrates the prevalence of segregation in the South. When she was rushed to the emergency room, they were told to wait in the colored waiting room. They had separate restrooms, water fountains, as well as schools. Despite Sarah Jean’s unconscious state, the doctor only attended to her when he was finished with the White patients.
♦ Social Movements and Social Change – Uncle Jed’s determination and accomplishment is reflective of his own personal way of bringing about social change – that is, establishing himself as a Black barber in a county where this was rarely seen.
♦ Taking Social Action – Uncle Jed teaches Sarah to dream, which can gradually blossom into change.