Christopher Award, 2002
By Karen Hesse
Twelve year old African American Leonora Sutter is running scared. Even though she and her father have dealt with racism before (after all, this is 1924, before Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement) she is terrified of what will happen to them now that the Klu Klux Klan has come to their small Vermont town. Who among the townspeople can she trust not to don white hoods after dark? Will Constable Johnson help her family if there is trouble, or is he one of THEM? On which side is general store owner Harvey Pettibone? Or Mrs. Sara Chickering, the lady farmer who avoids Leonora, but has a little Jewish girl staying with her?
The tension builds as Leonora tries to decide who to put her faith in during these dangerous times. Witness is written entirely in free-verse poetry, each poem being the inner thoughts of eleven different characters (including Leonora, Harvey and Sara) about how they feel about the KKK setting up shop in their town. Everyone thinks they know which side is right and which side is wrong, but when a furtive gunman opens fire on Sara Chickering’s house, each person must painfully reevaluate their position. Besides being a wonderfully deep examination of racism and identity, Witness is also a great history mystery. Note the clues each character drops to help you figure out who the guilty shooter is.
Your task is very simple: You are to follow the links below to get a better understanding of the time period and the Ku Klux Klan as it relates to the story, Witness.
Many of the websites that you will be visiting hold a vast amount of information about these subjects. However, because we are pressed for time, it will be up to you to decide how much time you are to spend on each site.
You are welcome to visit this site again from home if you would like to learn more. However, use your time wisely to complete this project during your assigned lab time before you go off course exploring.
Here are some things to remember while answering your questions:
- Read each webpage carefully.
- Answer your questions carefully and accurately.
- Use complete sentences.
- Take your time and be neat.
Okay, let's get started!
First let's make sure you understand what you need to do. The links below are for you to explore. It is important that you read carefully. You aren't only reading for the answers, but to get a better understanding about life during the time period of your novel.
So get your pencil, paper, and reading eyes ready for the quest! If you get lost, just click on the back button of the browser or ask Mrs. Feniello for help.