Witness
Karen Heese

It is the mid-1920 and the culture of a small Vermont town is changing slowly day by day. At first, it started as a respected society who claimed to be looking out for the good of the community. A society that also believed in justice and supporting the law. Who wouldn’t want to support a group like that? Many people joined because it sounded like such a positive thing. This “secret” society that claims to be looking out for the well being of the community starts to become more focused on their own agenda which they in turn believe is helping the community. Each person has their own individual story and secret to tell. Each person is connected in some way whether good or bad to the drama that is due to the Klan. White hooded robes start to appear more and more throughout this Vermont town. Burning crosses, death threats, dead animals, kidnappings start to become more rampant as the Klan becomes more popular. More and more people become scared of the “Klan”. Even members are scared of each other because of the threats and the hype that it has created. People who were generally caring and considerate have changed their mannerisms because of their involvement in the secret society. The Klan requires more and more people to commit acts that are against the law, but they believe is helping their community. The African Americans and the Jews are really feeling the pressure from the Klan to get out of town. Threats and attempted murder gets the whole town thinking more and more about the evils of the Ku Klux Klan.

This story involved a cross-cultural aspect to it in that it deals with the African Americans and Jews perspective during the 1920s. It obviously deals with racism and the early rises of the Ku Klux Klan. I think that this would be a good book to use in discussing racism or even history in the classroom. We could relate many activities to this for a number of different classes. I would have students think about racism and some examples from the past. I would also have them consider how it is affecting them now or is apparent today; finally I would have them reflect on how they think racism will be in the future. Will their still be racism, if so, in what aspects? How will it change? Will racism be eliminated? As a writing activity I would have students think about the book and have them consider what might have happened if the top authorities and people in the town had spoken out about the Klan and not let them get so involved in the community. Students would use this as a journal activity. I think it is good to discuss racism and the damaging effects of it on our country, community and our school. It is important for students to realize that their actions can be damaging and that it is wrong to treat someone differently because of their ethnic background. We still have problems with racism today, and I don’t think that it is discussed enough in our classrooms. Students need to learn how to act towards other people and learn common respect for their elders and fellow classmates. I think this book could also be used to help teach students common things like respect and correct attitude in dealing with other people. This book deals with a number of ethical decisions. It definitely provides a lot of room for discussion and consideration of what is right and wrong and everything in between. - AK