Saturday, February 7, 2009

Uncle Jed's Barbershop

Title: Uncle Jed’s Barbershop
Author: Margaree King Mitchell


The story takes place in the South just before the Great Depression. Uncle Jed, Sarah Jean’s granduncle, was the only black barber in the county. He dreamt of opening up his own barbershop one day in the future. In those days, dreams like that were uncommon, yet Uncle Jed head steadfast to that dream. He wasn’t able to open his barbershop for a long time though due to a couple setbacks - he paid for Sarah Jean’s emergency operation and then because of the Great Depression he lost all his money kept in the bank. He finally opened his barbershop on his 79th birthday – he made his dream come true. Throughout the story, concepts of discrimination and poverty are explained for straightforwardly, making it easier for young children to understand. Besides these concepts, the importance of family, friends, and community are also emphasized.

To be honest the first read through the book I could feel some tears welling up in my eyes! I loved how Uncle Jed never broke out in anger; he just started saving up all over again. By the last couple pages the reader shares in the joy Uncle Jed feels when he finally opens up his barbershop. The reader not only learns about the poverty and discrimination in that time, but also learns about community. What a great book to teach with!

Uses For Book
This book brings a lot to the table. It describes the hardship and struggle of being black and living in the south before and during the Great Depression. It also talks about segregation and poverty. Thus, this book can be used on various units on The Great Depression and on racism and segregation. Since this book is a fictional story, it will give students a good idea of what life was like in that time period. Students may choose to do more research on real families who lived in that time. This is a great book to be used for children of younger ages since they wording of the story is very simplified and straightforward. This would also be a great book to read through multiple times and pull various lessons from it.

Social Justice Education

Self Love and Acceptance
Despite a few setbacks, Uncle Jed still pursued his dream even if it did take him a long time. He kept his dream alive and worked hard to fulfill his dream. He passed this same determination and passion on to Sarah Jean. She learned to fight for her dreams as well. A great message that this story has simply that – to fight for your dreams and don’t let anyone stop you. In order to do that you must believe in yourself.

Respect for Others
Throughout the story, Uncle Jed always had respect for everyone – his clients, his family, and even the bank. He knew that the times were hard and that people were struggling. He never judged or complained about others. His respect for all these people was admirable.

Exploring Issues of Social Justice
There were two instances were issues of social justice was brought up. In one part, Sarah Jeans talks about what living in the South was like. At that time, many families lived in poverty. In fact, many of them were sharecroppers forced to work someone else’s land in exchange for a share of the crop. Later, Sarah Jean talks about the segregation at the time and how whites and blacks were forced to use separate restrooms, water fountains, and schools. When Sarah Jean was brought to the hospital, she was looked at only after all the white patients were taken care of. These issues are all well integrated into the story, but they still give you a good sense of what some of the injustices were at the time.

Social Movements and Social Change
When people like Uncle Jed accomplished their goals and fulfilled the dreams, they were making social change. It was common for people to succeed in such a way. By establishing the barbershop he was making great leaps for equality for the blacks.

Taking Social Action
This story teaches you to dream and to work hard to fulfill those dreams. I think students will realize that they too get fight for what they believe in. The can achieve the goals they set if they really work hard for it. And since the story introduces a few concepts related to racism and discrimination, I feel that they will be motivated to explore how these topics are still relevant today.


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