Picture Books and Primary Sources: Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. By Rob Sanders and Jamey Christoph

I am always glad when an anniversary of an event coincides with a historically based picture book. It adds a greater purpose to bring that book and event into student learning. This is the case with the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising that began on June 28, 1969, and the picture book by Rob Sanders and Jamey Christoph that was released earlier this year, Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. The story is told from the perspective of the two buildings that make up the Stonewall. Beginning in 1840, the book looks at the community around the Stonewall, slowing the pacing in the 1960s. The story ends by placing the Stonewall Uprising in the larger context of the LGBTQ+ rights movement.

Introducing the Stonewall Uprising

StonewallMost students likely have limited knowledge of the Stonewall Uprising. This is one reason historically based picture books are such a valuable resource in the classroom and school library. Historically based picture books provide context quickly that ground students in an event and time. Sanders’s book gives a perspective of place in Greenwich Village. He focuses his attention on the Stonewall, contrasting the acceptance of the patrons and the lack of acceptance leading to the raids. Four double-page spreads focus the reader on the moment of the first night of the uprising and the raids that precipitated it.

Focus students on those four spreads. Ask them who’s perspectives are shown through the book. Many will share two perspectives, the patrons and the police. Encourage the students to look more closely at the text and illustrations. Ask about individuals and groups that can be seen or read about. Students may point to the person yelling as she is forced into a police car. Others may notice that not everyone in the uprising seems to have come from the Stonewall.

Looking More Closely at Perspectives

Looking at accompanying primary sources can provide perspective and depth to the introduction of the Stonewall Uprising given through the picture book. The American Archive of Public Broadcasting has public broadcasting archives from across the country. Some of those many online offerings are raw interviews from an episode of American Experience titled “Stonewall Uprising.” Several of these interviews are with people who participated in the uprising. Analyzing their accounts can reveal that not everyone had the same perspective over the days of the uprising.

Jerry Hoose Interview

Jerry Hoose Interview

Begin by showing a portion of the interview with Jerry Hoose (0:46-5:30) where he speaks about the first night of the uprising. Ask students to identify phrases or moments that Hoose shares that stand out to them. It may be a moment that they connect with the picture book, something they can visualize, or a moment they emotionally react with. Next, ask them to react to Hoose’s experience. Was it what they expected to hear? What questions do they have that may help them understand the moment better?

Share other interviews from the curated set of primary sources. Timestamps are listed for each interview to focus students’ viewing. Ask students how each individual’s experience is similar and different from the others involved in the uprising. What is common? What ideas, emotions, or moments do multiple people talk about? Which are unique to one individual within this small sample?

Returning to the Historical Event

After reading the picture book and viewing the interviews, return to the Stonewall Uprising. Ask students how looking at the individual perspectives helps to gain an understanding of the event. How does that understanding help shape their understanding of the larger LGBTQ+ rights movement?


Author: Tom Bober

Tom Bober is a school librarian at RM Captain Elementary, 2018 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress, and author of the upcoming book Elementary Educator’s Guide to Primary Sources: Strategies for Teaching. He writes the Picture Books and Primary Sources posts for AASL’s KQ blog and has written articles for several publications. Tom also presents at conferences, runs workshops, and gives webinars to promote the use primary sources in student learning. He began his career as an elementary classroom teacher, was also an educational technologist, and has spent the last nine years as a school librarian.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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