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About Bessie Stringfield

The Motorcycle Queen of Miami was a brave soul, an adventurer, and a pioneer in both Civil Rights and feminist activism. In his newest book, Joel Christian Gill gives us the tale of this extraordinary woman as she rumbled her way through the United States. 

Craft and Structure – The Civil Rights Story

Bessie Stringfield was a rebel with a noble cause: equality and freedom for both African Americans and women. She followed her dream despite Jim Crow, racism in the South, and social constraints on acceptable careers for women. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist and author of the powerful essay, We Should All Be Feminists

Watch Adichie's TEDTalk, linked below. 

 

TEDTalks are one of the most influential and widely viewed forms of media today. If Bessie Stringfield were alive today, she might be asked to give her own TEDTalk.

Write a TEDTalk speech for Bessie Stringfield. Think about what she would talk about and how she would try to encourage today's young women to achieve their dreams. What aspects of her life would she talk about to ignite conversation about racial and gender equality? Then choose a narrative from Adichie's speech and recreate it as a page in a graphic novel. Which format do you think is more powerful? Which gets its message across more clearly?

 

Text Types and Purposes – Map Your Own Adventure

Bessie Stringfield lived in the dark and dangerous times before smart phones and the Internet. She dropped a coin onto a map to choose her destinations and used the Negro Motorist Green-Book to find safe places to eat and sleep. 

Thankfully, we have the Internet and Google maps now. Open Google Maps to your state or the whole  US and close your eyes. Wiggle the mouse and click five random spots on the map. How would you travel between them? What's the cheapest mode of transportation? What's the fastest? Find a restaurant, hotel, and museum in the vicinity of each place you chose with your mouse. 

 

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas – Jim Crow Laws and Bessie's Rebellion Against Them

Throughout the book, Bessie is chased by crows, which represent Jim Crow laws. But what are Jim Crow Laws? 

On a piece of paper, make two columns. While you watch these videos, write down anything Bessie experienced in her own life in one column, and anything you still see today in the other. 

 

In this video, John Green explains the conditions and attitudes of post-abolition America that created segregation by law and Jim Crow. 

This video discusses examples of Jim Crow laws and segregation.

This video discusses the Lunch Counter Protests that occurred in Texas in the early 1960s. What parallels can you draw between the actions in this video and in Bessie Stringfield

Supplemental Videos

Author Joel Christian Gill gives his own TEDTalk.

Documentarian Ken Burns and scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., join together to discuss the prevailing political fault line in the US: race. 

WARNING: Contains harsh language!