9th Circuit Court American Idol Andi Cumbo-Floyd A People's History of the United States Barack Obama Beacon Broadside Beacon Press Belvie Rooks Brown University Bruce Springsteen Center for Justice & Peacebuilding Children's Defense Fund Civil Rights CNN Coming to the Table Dr. Martin Luther King Eastern Mennonite University Facebook Gather at the Table George Orwell Ghana Goodwin Liu Inheriting the Trade James DeWolf Perry Jim Crow Jon Stewart Jr. Melissa Harris-Perry Michelle Alexander Michelle Obama MSNBC NPR Our Black Ancestry PBS President Obama Sharon Leslie Morgan Sharon Morgan STAR Summer Peacebuilding Institute Susan Hutchison The Daily Show The New Jim Crow Thomas Jefferson Traces of the Trade Trayvon Martin
Most recent posts
Baby at the Airport
Thank you, Ben Affleck. Now what?
Why I LOVE to collect author autographs
Closing lines from books that changed my life
No indictment (and, sadly, no surprise) in death of Eric Garner
Give BOOKS for the holidays! Save $$$ and support a Great Cause!
All The Light We Cannot See
Most recent comments
Baby at the Airport (4)
Melissa: I'm reminded that by looking into the eye of a baby, one can see the...
Mark Offenbacher: Tom, Great story, I’m sure the baby will be sharing it as well....
Didie: Wow! Beautiful experience!
Bob Brown: Wonderful story Tom. I am sure the feeling was calming yet unnerving, at the...
Janis Ian’s “front row guy” (2)
Dara: Hi Tom, My name is Dara and I am from Philadelphia, PA. I enjoyed reading about...
Appearances by Tom
Author Stuff, Writing
Coming to the Table
Gather at the Table
Inheriting the Trade
Race, Oppression, Privilege
Traces of the Trade
Trauma and Healing
Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!
Flat Justin receives Birmingham Civil Rights History tourPosted March 9th, 2010 by Tom
I had never heard of “Flat Stanley” when my lifelong friend Mike Godfrey wrote and asked if his son could send me his “Flat Justin” to spend some time with me. Mike and I grew up together because our parents were best friends. We went on vacations together and our families jointly owned a cabin in the mountains. We had some serious snowball fights over the years. I’m not sure there is anyone I spent more time with growing up than Mike until I moved to Oregon to attend college almost 40 years ago. I was honored that JJ chose me to send Flat Justin to.
As I understand it the Flat Stanley Project is an international literacy and community building project where elementary school students create a Stanley character that can be mailed in an envelope. Students from one school would mail their flat characters to students from a school in another part of the country (or the world) and those students create a journal that tells about where Flat Stanley is visiting.
So, variation on this theme, Mike’s son JJ sent his Flat Justin to me and I was to create a journal with pictures of Flat Justin in various places in and around our Central Oregon home/community. Well, Flat Justin learned about our home town all right, but my life takes me to many places around the country so I took Flat Justin with me to Alabama last week where I spoke at three different colleges in Birmingham and Mobile. I don’t know if JJ expected to learn about Birmingham in addition to Bend, but he’s going to nonetheless. I spent most of a day last week touring sites that were significant to the history of the Civil Rights movement and I hope that JJ, his classmates, his teacher, and even my buddy his father, are inspired to search more deeply into our nation’s history than is often the case; that JJ will know more than I did at his age about truth, justice, and equality and just how hard they are to achieve and maintain in our sometimes-not-so United States. (For anyone interested in seeing more photos than are included here, I’ve loaded quite a few onto my Facebook page).
After giving Flat Justin a tour of Central Oregon, here’s what I wrote to JJ:
There is a lot I didn’t go into with JJ. I hope this introduction will peak his interest and that he’ll explore more on his own and with his dad’s help. For instance, 45 years ago this past weekend, March 7, was Bloody Sunday, when hundreds of Civil Rights marchers attempted to walk from Selma to Montgomery and were brutally attacked by police with billy clubs and tear gas. It is a challenge to figure out how to tell our children the truth about American history. Some of it is horrific beyond words.
But this is our work if we want to leave our descendants a more just and peaceful world than the one we inherited, and the one we currently live in. I look forward to hearing back from JJ once he has a chance to read my journal of Flat Justin’s travels to Oregon and Alabama.
JJ, there are many more places to go…