Ronald Kidd - January 2019

Book and Discussion Guide on the Freedom Riders

Black History Month is coming up in February, which gives me a chance to remind you of my recent middle grade novel about the Freedom Riders.

Night on Fire is the story of a young white girl named Billie Sims who lives in Anniston, Alabama, where in the spring of 1961 a Greyhound bus carrying Freedom Riders was attacked and burned. Witnessing the terrible event, Billie and her friend Jarmaine Jones decide they aren’t satisfied to be watchers; they want to be riders. Together they take a bus trip of their own to Montgomery, where a crucial but little-known event in Civil Rights history (pictured) takes place at First Baptist Church, with Billie and Jarmaine right in the middle of it. 

“Kidd writes with insight and restraint, creating a richly layered opus that hits every note to perfection.... Beautifully written and earnestly delivered, the novel rolls to an inexorable, stunning conclusion readers won’t soon forget.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred) 

Read more about Night on Fire. 

Download the free discussion guide.

The Nashville Connection

Most people don’t know it, but Nashville was in many ways the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement.   

College students from Fisk University, Tennessee A&I (now Tennessee State), and American Baptist College were trained in nonviolence by Rev. James Lawson, then held sit-ins at Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960, formed the core of the Freedom Riders after Anniston, and provided leaders in the movement, including John Lewis and many others.   

To learn the story of Lewis and his friends, read David Halberstam’s wonderful book The Children, inspired by Halberstam’s experience in the early 1960s as a reporter on the Nashville Tennessean. Highly recommended!  

Read This!

Who was Alexander von Humboldt?    

I had no idea until I read this fascinating and important biography. Humboldt, a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson, was called “the Shakespeare of the sciences.” He taught and inspired Darwin. He deeply influenced Goethe, Thoreau, Wordsworth, Simon Bolivar, and John Muir.    

Humboldt was the quintessential scientist before the word scientist had even been coined. He climbed the Chilean peak Chimborazo to 19,000 feet in 1802, higher than any person had ever gone, and from that vantage point confirmed his unique and world-changing view of nature as a system of interrelated pieces, of which humans are a part.    

In 1869, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, huge celebrations were held in Paris, London, Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Moscow, Alexandria, Mexico City, and from New York to San Francisco, and yet in the U.S. today he is almost unknown. I’m hopeful Andrea Wulf’s book will help to change that.

Now Available

  • Lord of the Mountain
    The “big bang” of country music in 1927 at Bristol, Tennessee.
    Read more
  • Room of Shadows
    Edgar Allan Poe returns and gets the glorious death he deserved.
    Read more
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Copyright © 2019 Ronald Kidd, All rights reserved.

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