Thurgood Marshall facing right

Thurgood Marshall: From His Early Years to Brown by Michael D. Davis and Hunter R. Clark

Download in epub format:

Download in mobi format for Amazon devices:

Editorial reviews:

“Michael Davis and Hunter Clark have crafted a thoughtful, carefully researched and focused biography.” —USA Today

“Well-written, informative and lively.” —People

“Michael D. Davis and Hunter R. Clark offer a masterfully written tale of an American legend.” — Gannett News Service

“Filled with the same fire, passion and humor that drove Marshall’s life, Thurgood Marshall is a revealing portrait of a pioneering lawyer.” —National Black Review

This ebook edition is the first half of the 1992 print edition of “Thurgood Marshall: Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench.” This new edition covers Thurgood Marshall’s youth, education, and the legal strategies he used, and the cases he argued leading up to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The reviews above are from the print edition.

Publisher’s Note:
Chapter 1 describes Thurgood Marshall’s place in history.
Chapter 2 explains the challenges Marshall and the attorneys of the N.A.A.C.P were to face as they built the precedents that led to the Brown decision.
Chapter 3 is about Marshall’s childhood in Jim Crow Baltimore, and is probably the best starting point for high school students who want to begin with a straight-forward story of the life of a courageous leader. This chapter lends itself to writing assignments such as “Compare your public school years to what Thurgood Marshall experienced in Baltimore.” Not only will students have to read the chapter to complete the writing assignment, but there will be space for their own voices in the assignment. They may find this comparison more interesting than a book report.
Chapter 4 describes his years in Howard University Law School, and the work of his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston, who saw how the law school and its graduates could fight racial injustice.
Subsequent chapters describe the work Marshall did on the cases leading up to the Brown decision, his civil rights work in the South, and his push for fair treatment of Black G.I.s during the Korean War.

photo of John Shook beside Vietnam Memorial

One Soldier by John H. Shook

Who, or what, was the real enemy in Vietnam? The ever-elusive, jungle-wise Viet Cong and their NVA allies? The oppressive heat and torrential rains? The leeches, mosquitoes, and the jungle itself? Or the army whose regulations made you carry a .45 even though the firing pin was broken? Perhaps, each in their own way, they all were… and John Shook battled them all.

In One Soldier, he recounts his experiences and describes how he faced—and overcame—all the enemies a machine-gunner encountered in the Nam. Straight-from-the-shoulder, Shook tells of search and destroy patrols and night ambushes and slogging through a rice paddy, wondering when the first shot was going to come. You’ll be at his side during bull sessions on getting a “million-dollar” wound that would mean a return to the States and in firefights that turned his M-60 machine gun from a shoulder-numbing burden into a staccato, lead-spewing lifesaver.

Most of all, One Soldier is a story of combat, written in the immediate, gut-wrenching language that men at war resort to: “A burst of automatic rifle fire rips through the hooch inches above my elevated perch. Knowing exactly where my rifle hangs I reach out for it but grasp only air and wooden wall. … The firing in both directions is heavier now. There is yelling on the bridge. It is a black night, a void of vision punctuated by muzzle flashes and the crisscrossing streaks of tracers… Is that your 16?’ I yell. ‘What the f—. Who cares?’… ‘Where was your rifle when this s— started?'”

The epub format below is for your Apple and Android devices and the Send-to-Kindle feature on Amazon devices.

Download in mobi format for your Amazon ereader or Fire tablet:

photo of Donald Duncan

The New Legions by Donald Duncan

Epub or Mobi?

The epub format below is for your Apple and Android devices and in one case for Amazon devices. As you may know, Amazon has changed to the epub format to use with the Send to Kindle program. A great feature of the Send to Kindle program is that the file will go directly to your Library folder, and not have to be searched for in ES File Explorer or another app. If you use the mobi format in Send to Kindle, you will now get an error message. You can see instructions about Send to Kindle at

So if you are using this ebook on Apple, or Android devices, or in the Send to Kindle program, you can download this epub file below.

If you or your students want to download directly from this web site to  an Amazon device, you can use the mobi format below. When you find the mobi file  in ES File Explorer, it will then open in the Kindle app on your tablet. If you download an epub file to your Amazon tablet, it will also open if you have an app such as Overdrive on your tablet. The Kindle app offers an excellent reading experience to start with. Overdrive may need some customization of font size.



Donald Duncan wanted be the best soldier possible. He was regular Army, then Airborne, then Green Beret.

In Vietnam, he led reconnaissance patrols deep into enemy-held territory to assess the strength of the Viet Cong, the communist guerrillas. He returned home with questions about Vietnam. Did the peasants on the farms in South Vietnam want another foreign power in their country? Were they as anti-communist as Americans, or anti-foreigner? What did their attitudes mean to the success of the intervention of United States in Vietnam? He went even further as you will see. He asked if South Vietnam was really a separate country in the eyes of the Vietnamese.

Read about his patriotism, his courage and his questions.

Editorial Reviews :
“Frequently provocative.” –The Saturday Review.

“Duncan’s merits are obvious. He has written a buoyant work filled with rueful reflections on our past and present errors, but charged with hopes for the future. In relating his impressions of army life he is at his best; some really fine pages describe the counterinsurgency training of the Green Berets; the numerous missions of the Special Forces into Viet Cong-held territory; the shop talk of war-weary soldiers groping to discover a rational explanation for their presence in Vietnam; the almost totally negative reactions of these same soldiers to the South Vietnamese army, government, and people; and the sorry plight in the armed forces of the American Negro, who still suffers from discrimination despite the efforts of his government to eradicate it.

“… There is much of value in The New Legions. Evident on every page is Duncan’s humanity. And the nobility of his cause— the end of the war and the triumph of peace, justice, and integrity throughout the world—is, of course, incontestable. His book is often illuminating and frequently provocative…”
Saturday Review August 12, 1967


How to Share Ebooks with Your Students: Summer 2022

The Easiest Ways to Get Ebooks to Students

August, 2022 Update.

To download a copy of these suggestions,  click below.

Welcome to the world of ebooks.

As you may know, there are two ebook formats used on free ebook websites for you and your students to download: epub and mobi. Mobi is for Amazon devices; epub is for everything else. Amazon has introduced a newer format called azw which allows more choices with fonts and adds other features, but it is not necessary to use it. Older Mobi files can still be used on Amazon devices in the summer of 2021.

Let’s start with the  epub format used by Android and Apple devices.

1. Find the ebook on the site which you want your students to read and send them the link such as

When they click on the ebook file that they have downloaded, the Chromebook or tablet will spring into action and want to install an ereading app. If they don’t have an ereading app on their Chromebooks, the device will prompt them to install one which happens very quickly.

2. Another way is to download an epub file and then email it to students. When they click on the ebook file, again the tablet will spring into action and want to install an ereading app. If they don’t have an ereading app on their Chromebooks, the device will prompt them to install one which happens very quickly.

3. You might suggest that they immediately increase the size of the font in settings in the ebook app. I do this almost automatically when I open a new ebook. There is research that shows that struggling readers do better with larger fonts.

4. Another way to distribute is by uploading the epub file to a shared Google drive, set the permission for the file to be shared with all users and then email the link to students. See for instructions on the Google drive option.

5. If they don’t have Gmail addresses needed to use the shared Google drive, ask them to go to the free ebook website ask them to download the epub version for their Chromebooks or Android phones or iPads. As mentioned above, if they don’t have an ereading app on their Chromebooks, the device will prompt them to install one which happens very quickly. They will then be able to start reading

Getting a Kindle Ebook on to your Students’ Fire Tablets

Imagine that a classroom teacher is sharing an Kindle ebook with all of his or her students who own Kindle devices. Or that your neighbor downloaded a Kindle file in mobi format from our web site to share with all the members of the neighborhood association.

1. The easiest way is for your students to download the Kindle file, the one in mobi format, directly from our web site. You would do the same with an ebook from Project Gutenberg, or from Standard Ebooks or any other free ebook site.

The only problems we have seen with using mobi files on Fire devices is that the files can be hard to find as I found out below.

I just downloaded an ebook in the Kindle or mobi format onto my favorite device, an 8″ Fire tablet. It was so easy. Click on the download button for the mobi file on the Ebooks for Students web site, and then open the file.

Where did the downloaded ebook go on the Fire tablet?

But where did the ebook go after I closed it? I can’t reopen it and continue reading if I can’t find it. I couldn’t find it in the Documents folder on the Fire tablet. I looked all over the Fire tabs. It did not appear under the Home tab, or the For You tab.

The trick was to look for it through a file manager such as ES File Explorer app.

So I dragged the ES File Explorer app to the top of my screen of icons in the Home tab on my Fire tablet, and now I am ready to reopen all the ebooks I have downloaded. On my Fire tablet, the downloaded ebooks in the Kindle format appeared in the Internal Storage area of ES File Manager.

You will want to advise students to download ES File Explorer from the Kindle Appstore before they download ebooks from free web sites such as Gutenberg or our Ebooks site or other free sites. With ES File Explorer, they will be able to see what they have downloaded on their tablets.

I love my Fire tablet. I think that it is one of the best values out there, but downloads from free ebook sites should go immediately into the Library folder.  Amazon’s current policy segregating free ebooks into the Downloads section is backward and another obstacle to ease of use for students.

2. Another way is to email the ebook file to all the members of the class or group as an attachment. Each student will then open the attachment and save it to his or her computer. Then the student can email the file to his or her Kindle device. The new ebook will appear in the Library folder of the student’s Kindle. This is an upgrade from Amazon’s policy in the past which was to have emailed mobi files appear in the Documents folder.

But how do you find out the email address of your Kindle device?  Fortunately, Amazon explains it all here:

3. A third way is to ask students to connect their Kindle device to a computer in the school library and transfer the file with a USB cable. See instructions here:

The same idea applies to Android devices. We recommend installing a strong ereader app such as Moon Reader, or Moon Reader Pro before downloading epub files.

Getting the Most from an Ereading App

We have described a number of strategies for transfer of epub files above. Below we have also complied some additional information about how the tablet experience might help your students. With a search on Google, you will see reviews of which apps are the  best for reading ebooks. We like the Google Play Books app which provides notetaking and can be set to look like a a page in a book if students only have their Chromebooks to read with.

Change the Appearance of the Page in Google Play Books. I do not love the default setting with a dual page look in Google Play Books, but you can change it to a single page display, fortunately. Check the top right of the Google Play Book page for Display Options which is A, then choose One Page Layout.


If students want to read the ebook on their computer, I would recommend that they ignore the epub reader called “Cloud Epub Reader” built into Google Drive. It’s ugly with few features. We recommend downloading the epub. Then use Calibre or Google Play Books with the epub file. We discuss these below.

 Show students how to upload an ebook to Google Play Books.

If you have an email list of your students, you could send each of them a copy of the ebook in the epub format, and then ask them to upload it in Google Play Books on a computer at home or in the library. This will work well. The Upload feature is obvious and thus easy to use.

Here is an excellent YouTube video on the topic at

Of course, your students will all need to have Google accounts, and know how to switch users on a public computer. If they have their own devices, they will need to install the Google Play Book app on their Android or iPad tablet in order to read the books on their tablets.

This uploading of ebooks is done much more easily on a computer than on a tablet. As you can see below, the Upload button is conspicuous. After the upload, the ebook will appear in their Play Books app on whatever Android or iPad tablet there are using.

An image showing the upload button in Google Play books


Students Can Sideload Content to an Android tablet from a PC or Mac in School.
If students’ email addresses are not available, they can always download ereading apps in a school library with Wifi on to their tablets, and then sideload ebooks on to their tablets from a computer in a library. It is more tedious than the email options, but it works. For more information about this process called sideloading see

Here is another look at the same process, and of course there are YouTube videos.

Other features in Google

The value of note taking

As you probably know the major apps such as Google Play Books, and the Amazon Kindle app offers features which may be useful to your students. In these apps, students can take notes. Here is a video on taking notes in Google Play Books:

How to take notes in Google Play Books.

See Google’s instructions for taking notes.

Highlighting material in Google Play Books takes a minute or two to learn.

After you select a word as the starting point of the highlight, you will need to move the blue marker to the end of your highlight. You will then be able to see all your highlighted material and all your notes which you made in your tablet on your computer. And there you can paste these notes and highlights into your writing assignments. Since we strongly encourage students to take notes as they read in order to efficiently write about a book, this ability to copy your notes and highlights from an ebook into a word processor is crucial—the sine qua non of an ereading app. More on this below.

How to pull notes from an ebook into a Writing Assignment

As writing instructors, we often reminded students that if they take notes on where they agree and disagree with an author as they read, part of their papers have been written. They don’t need to reread to see where they object to the writer or why they object or agree with the writer.

In Google Play Books, you can open an ebook on your computer, and mouse over Contents at the top right which will turn blue. Then click on Contents. See the three vertical blue bars, then click on their Notes and highlight the notes you want to paste into a Word Processor.


With your notes highlighted on a computer, you can open a could copy them into a Word processor and use your notes in your next writing assignment.

How to Turn on the Read Aloud feature in Google Play Books

As mentioned earlier, for students with reading difficulties, turning on a feature such as reading the book out loud might be helpful. This is how the Google Play Books app handles it. It is very easy to do.

Read more is information in print about the same process.

Our conclusion about Google Play Books, and the Android Tablets where you find often find it.

Ease of Use. We enjoyed the ease of use of uploading ebooks to the Google Play app and the general ease of use in configuring the appearance of the page. Making the fonts, leading (spacing between lines), and margins larger make help struggling readers and all of this is easy to do in Play Books.

Appearance of the Page in Google Play Books. I do not love the default setting with a dual page look in Google Play Books, but you can change it to a single page display, fortunately.

And we have included some suggestions about features in software such as Text to Speech (TTS) which may help struggling readers. Finally, since we strongly believe that writing assignments tied to books can motivate reading, we have descriptions of the note taking features in the ereading apps which students can use as complete their writing assignments.

How does Amazon handle collecting notes taken from ebooks so that these notes can be reused in writing assignments?

As you might expect, Amazon has desktop applications similar to Google’s software, where your students can collect their notes and paste them into word processors. Students could download the free Kindle for PC application or the free Kindle for Mac in order to see the notes they have taken while reading an ebook. And these notes can be pasted into a word processor.

Another way is go to . From here notes and highlights can be copied and pasted into new documents.

How does Amazon handle Text to Speech (TTS) which may help some readers?

While Amazon has been criticized for abandoning TTS in its ereaders, it is available on tablets such as the 7” Amazon Fire.

ve Google accounts or Amazon accounts needed for the Kindle app?

How can they access ebooks?
There are a number of functional ereading apps such as FBreader, CoolReader, and Moon Reader which are free and can be installed on any tablet with WiFi access. We especially like Moon Plus Reader since it can be set up to provide a display with the indents which make it look like you are reading a book. So a student can go into your school’s library or media room, and then sideload the ebooks from your folder to his or her tablet.

See a review of Moon Reader here:

And then they copy the ebook files from a computer in a library onto their tablets with a USB to micro-USB cable, the same cable used in charging cell phones. This is called sideloading, and we have described it earlier.

The display in Moon Plus can be made to be beautiful. But you will need to do some work in Moon Plus to get great pages. The default is not perfect. To get to the appearance we like, that is, with indented paragraphs and no lines between paragraphs, you will need to go into the Control Bar on the top right, then Visual Options, the Miscellaneous at the bottom, then see the Typesetting Options, and click on INDENT FIRST LINE OF PARAGRAPH, AND another option, TRIM BLANK LINES AND SPACES.

How does the export of notes work in an ereader app such as Moon Reader

You can export your notes to a email program from the page you are reading by clicking on the bookmark icon, and click on SHARING to select from a variety of methods of sharing.

Other apps such as FBReader work perfectly well, but the appearance of their pages can’t be customized as fully as what Moon Reader Plus offers.

The only danger lurking in Moon Reader is that an unwary user can set off the Scroll feature fairly easily. Please warn students that this feature once activated can be turned off by drawing a finger across the middle of a page.

In a post-pandemic world, It would be interesting to see if providing students with choices of devices before  increase their adoption of these devices. It would also be interesting to see if choices of courses and reading and writing assignments mattered. Would students who had to choose among electives in the humanities be more committed to their work?

 Ask your media librarian for help.

If you are working in a large high school, your media librarian is probably familiar with how to distribute ebooks to students. He or she may also have suggestions about the most efficient ways to take notes as students read ebooks. I like the ability to see and copy quotations that I have highlighted as I read on my Fire tablets through . But I might also keep a notebook around to response to the text I would like to argue with. I still write much faster than I can peck out on the miniature keyboard on a tablet.

Use Websites to Build the Habit of Reading-Part 1

Every week as the media reports on the pandemic, you can see students diligently looking at computer screens in their classrooms. But are they reading books or playing computer games?

Given that national reading scores have not improved for the last eight years as Chromebooks have poured into classrooms, (See NAEP data for more on this,) there is reason to believe technology is not leading to more reading experiences for our nation’s youngsters.

As we all know, the volume of reading students accomplish matters. Several changes could increase the volume of reading without depleting the new CARES funding that schools are receiving.

School systems could actually market individual books on their web sites. I can’t find a single recommendation for a history book at my local school district in Montgomery County Maryland.  Instead the web site for social studies lists topic after topic. Can all the ninth graders even read the assigned textbooks? Should there be biographies at a variety of grade levels available? This question does not seem to interest Montgomery County administrators. There is  no information about the textbooks and their grade levels online. Given that results on the state achievement tests are very weak in some of the high schools on the east and north sides of the county, you might think the quality of reading experiences might receive more attention.

Include teachers and students in these marketing efforts on the websites of school districts. Where are the testimonials from teachers about how their students responded to a print book or ebook? What did they think of “Helmet for My Pillow”? Is it too dark? What do students have to say about their reading assignments in history? Will parents ever know?

Should school buy Chromebooks which can be used as reading tablets? Are school districts buying Chromebooks which can be flipped to be used as tablets for reading ebooks at night? Or should they be buying tablets as ereaders? I don’t see any information about convertible or flip Chromebooks at the schools districts in the Washington DC metro area, or any information about tablets. I don’t love convertible Chromebooks as reading devices. The 13″ ones with large enough keyboards such as the Lenovo Flex 5 are too bulky to read on, and my 11″ Lenovo C340 has a cramped keyboard. The 8″ Amazon Fire tablet is comfortable  for reading, and at $55 during sales, an amazing value.

Reduce the bureaucracy that discourages teachers from buying books. Too many levels of approval for the purchases of books are needed. See below for a look at the bureaucracy in the Montgomery County Public Schools.  Source





Chart with Approval Steps

Large Fonts and Struggling Readers

This post from Professor Terry Cavanaugh about the importance of font size for struggling readers is no longer available on, but the excerpt below shows what he had to say.

“Actually font size change is important for many who have print disablities, not just that it could be done. One of the first things that we try to do for students with disabilties is get all the texts that they use in a digital format if possible. Screen maginifaction just doesn’t do the same thing as it impeeds saccades and fixations in the reading process.

“As the print is made larger, students view fewer words on the page, thus enabling them to focus more easily and decrease the chance of losing their place while reading – something that is easy to lose while moving with magnification. Larger print is also important when reading at a greater distance, at lower light levels, and when moving. While the use of large print text has usually been associated with assisting the special needs of students with visual impairments or older people, the benefits gained with the use of large print are actually applicable to others who may not have a learning disability, specifically the struggling, reluctant, and remedial readers.

“Font size, paper and ink colors, and formatting are several factors that all have an effect on readability of text material. especially those susceptible to visual stress, were found to make more errors on the smaller than on the larger text. From this Hughes and Wilkins (2000) concluded that the reading development of some children could benefit from a larger text size and spacing than is currently the norm. Reading miscues, including misreading syllables or words; skipping syllables, words, or lines; rereading lines; and ignoring punctuation cues were found to be virtually eliminated when students read large print books.

“Fewer words on a page mean struggling readers have to visually process less per page, but it still allows the readers to make progress with comprehension, tracking, and fluency, with fewer decoding errors. Additionally, having fewer words on the page lowers anxiety levels concerning the text in struggling readers. The ability to change to a larger print provides a positive and powerful tool for struggling, reluctant, and visually challenged readers. Increased font size and spacing of large print scaffolds struggling readers to develop the skills they need. Larger print assists students in: recognizing words accurately, comprehending what they are reading, and reading more fluently.

“Currently many teachers and librarians already use large print materials for their students who have:
* Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
* Difficulty with encoding or decoding
* Dyslexia
* Large or small motor deficits
* Amblyopia or “Lazy Eye”
* Light sensitivity
* Short term memory deficits
* Tracking issues
* Visual impairments”

More about John Brown

More from the Washington Post:
His Truth Goes Marching On
By Jonathan Yardley
January 28, 1973

“HERE IS A book of surprising breadth, insight, compassion and historical vision—the first of what is to be a two-volume study of John Brown and his times. It recreates the whole fabric of our period of greatest national crisis, and it persuasively argues that the much maligned and misunderstood John Brown was the “central figure” of his age—the man who is “transformed and shaped by the experiences of his generation and in turn transforms it.”

“That is a considerable assertion, and Richard O. Boyer has written a considerable book to investigate it. The Legend of John Brown is not merely the story of the first 55 years of its subject’s life—though merely as that it is excellent—but a panoramic view of the nation as it plunged toward civil war, and a series of incisive sketches of men and women on both sides of the conflict who at one time or another touched the life of John Brown.
Up to now, Boyer contends, Brown’s biographers have found it “enough to tell of Kansas and Harper’s Ferry.” Boyer’s purpose is to locate the “genesis” of those traumatic events, the tangled process by which Brown resolved the conflict between his business ambitions and his opposition to slavery, and be- came the fiery-eyed zealot who lives now in American legend.

“John Brown—the very name was made for legend—has usually been portrayed in stark, absolute terms: he is seen either as a devil, a psychotic whose mad vision led himself, his sons and other men to death in the bizarre folly of Harper’s Ferry; or as a saint, an angel of God whose divinely ordained mission touched the conscience of the nation. Boyer sees him differently: as a human being. In Boyer’s masterly portrait, Brown emerges as a troubled, indecisive man who was at last touched by the greatest moral issue in our history.

“As we see him through Boyer’s eyes, he is in many respects an archetypal American, a man of the land:
“This land, to the discerning, accounts for much of John Brown, his urge for wealth, his hymn-singing, and his praying, his homely understated attitude with its echoes of defiance and boasting, his restlessness, the covered wagon that he knew, the posture which combined distinction with rusticity and both with an everlasting search for something perhaps finally found. But so complete was his identification with the large and violent land, so thoroughly was he its product, that the Ohio farmer who was John Brown found no difficulty in communicating with Parker or Higginson, Emerson, Thoreau, or the black man fighting slavery, all of whom were as American and perhaps as permanent, while there is an American consciousness, as the land itself.”

“….We encounter other men—Theodore Parker, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Frederick Douglass, among the abolitionists; William Walker, Henry Wise, Edmund Ruffin, among the Southerners—who were likewise seized and transformed by the historical moment, and the story of their metamorphosis makes Brown’s more understandable. We encounter, too, the great events that built inexorably toward the shuddering climax of national cataclysm: the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Underground Railroad, the harsh debates on the floors of Congress, the murderous violence that accompanied the settlement of Kansas. In Boyer’s words, written with a brilliant blend of passion and objectivity, a vanished America comes alive again, the passions of the day boil anew, and we are made to understand how it was that a failed tanner, sheep raiser and wool dealer named John Brown became a man possessed.

“Legend, Boyer reminds us as the book begins, is “often defined as the popular if unverifiable story of a hero coming down from the past.” In this book, however, we are given legend as it was envisioned by John Jay Chapman, the estimable 19th-century journalist who wrote with much feeling and perception about John Brown’s life. Brown’s life, Chapman said, is an example of “an immortal legend—perhaps the only one in our history.”

“Richard O. Boyer has taken Chapman’s words and built an extraordinary book around them, one that affirms and enlarges them…”

Using Free Ebooks Efficiently-Part 1

Can all of your students read the history textbook which you are about to hand out?

When I taught in the Cleveland Public Schools fifty years or so ago, this was a major problem. The only advice I received about students and reading was “Don’t call on anyone to read out loud. You don’t want to embarrass anyone.” I totally agree with this strategy, but the question of how to encourage readers who can’t handle the textbook remains a challenge today. Read more

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Epub or Mobi?
The epub format below is for your Apple and Android devices and in one case for Amazon devices. As you may know, Amazon has changed to the epub format to use with the Send to Kindle program. A great feature of the Send to Kindle program is that the file will go directly to your Library folder, and not have to be searched for in ES File Explorer or another app. If you use the mobi format in Send to Kindle, you will now get an error message. You can see instructions about Send to Kindle at

So if you are using this ebook on Apple, or Android devices, or in the Send to Kindle program, you can download this epub file below.

If you or your students want to download directly from this web site to an Amazon device, you can use the mobi format below. When you find the mobi file in ES File Explorer, it will then open in the Kindle app on your tablet. If you download an epub file to your Amazon tablet, it will also open if you have an app such as Overdrive on your tablet. The Kindle app offers an excellent reading experience to start with. Overdrive may need some customization of font size.

Writer, Orator, Agitator and Champion of Human Rights.

Born in slavery, largely self-educated and self-liberated, Frederick Douglass rose against formidable odds to become a great American leader, not only in the fight for the abolition of slavery, but in the general cause of human rights. After the Civil War, Douglass utilizing his unique gifts as writer and orator, fought for equal rights for Negroes as zealously as he had fought for emancipation. He was actively associated with the campaign for equal rights for women. He was a champion of free education for “every poor man from Maine to Texas.” He played an important role in the early Negro labor movement. He was involved in the temperance crusade.

Having attained the distinguished position as advisor to President Lincoln, Douglass reached the apex of his astonishing career with his appointment a Minister  Resident and Consul General to the Republic of Haiti. His autobiography, presented here as he finally completed and revised it in 1892, is a unique chronicle of seventy-eight crucial years in American history, and a  provocative and impressive self-portrait of an uncommon man.


The first section of the book, the often assigned Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, is much easier reading than the political work he describes in Part 2 and 3. But a reader who sticks with Parts 2 and 3 will learn much about the Abolitionist movement in Part 2 and about the failures of Reconstruction in Part 3.

Promote Summer Reading with Free Ebooks

What are the best strategies to encourage summer reading? A gold star for each book read beside my name on the library wall worked for me one summer a long time ago. But mailing out gold stars this summer could get expensive, and the thrill of seeing your name on the wall in the library would be missing.

What would work today? A web page with students’ names and titles of the books they read might work if privacy regulations would allow this.

Cover showing Marines invading Guadalcanal

U.S. Marines on Guadalcanal

Cover with Bomber in SkyStarting with great narratives might also help motivate reading. Our most popular book in terms of downloads to date and sales on Amazon is “Helmet for My Pillow” by Robert Leckie. It was the basis of the HBO series “The Pacific.” It is a page turner about a young Marine who fought in Guadalcanal and in other bloody campaigns in the Pacific during World War II. In this first person account, you will feel you are right beside Robert Leckie as he and his fellow Marines are shelled by Japanese battleships at night, and bombed by Japanese airplanes during the day as they faced a fierce opponent on Guadalcanal.

“Serenade to the Big Bird” is almost as dramatic. In another first person, easy to read account, the war in the air over Europe doesn’t look too horrible to start. The narrator who went to the Air Force out of a journalism program in college is optimistic as his bombing runs over occupied France and over Germany start. But he soon sees the effects of war. This book is at a 6th grade reading level according to the Flesch-Kincaid analysis in Microsoft Word.

Moving away from military history, are titles such as “Sea and Earth: The Life of Rachel Carson” and “Benito Juarez: Builder of a Nation.” In the Carson book, young readers will see the intensity of the scientist and her drive to make the world a better place for all of us. Juarez, the only indigenous president in the history of Mexico modernized his country as he successfully freed it from a foreign invader. His life is inspiring and his story in the Emma Gelders Sterne biography is well-told at an easy to read 6.2 grade level.

Image of a woman leading children up a hillThe Thurgood Marshall biographies are some of my favorites in our catalogue. Marshall kept pushing and pushing and pushing even when he life was threatened. He just didn’t stop. I taught the books when they were in print and it went well. My immigrant students in New York City said that they liked learning about race in the United States. My African-American students liked seeing the picture of a man who looked like them on the cover of the book. The Marshall biographies are at a 10th grade reading level.

Our web site has many other easy to read titles about Black history. The story of how Mary McLeod Bethune devoted her life to education and founded a college is inspiring. “The Long Black Schooner” tells the story of the successful revolt on the Amistad. These books written by Emma Gelders Sterne are at a 7th grade reading level.

Feel free to take our ebooks and post them on your school’s web sites if you prefer to have control of content on your servers. But please write us at or call at (202) 464-9126 if this is your plan so we can track the use of our free ebooks this summer.

And of course, recommendations from your teachers about individual titles might encourage young readers.

Can Electives Build Readers?


I love electives. They kept me in teaching. For many years in a community college, I taught books like Parallel Time, Walking with the Wind-A Memoir of the Movement, A Hope in the Unseen-An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League, Dead Man Walking, etc. as part of ENG 101 classes. In some ways, the community college was a horrible place to teach. Most of us were adjuncts, part-timers year after year, and they forgot to pay us much. The union for the fulltime faculty in the City University of New York was too small to matter much in a city of mega-unions each with tens of thousands of members in New York City, and the fulltimers pretended that the adjuncts did not exist at contract time. But the English Department did treat adjuncts like professionals. We were allowed to select the reading materials for our classes.

If the department had forced me to use the boring anthologies in wide use in the English Department, I would have left teaching. How can instructors expect students to read about 15 or more topics in an anthology? The opportunity to connect to a topic is so limited. But enough about me.

By now we know that electives are much more likely to allow a teacher to choose reading materials that he or she cares about. With enthusiasm and energy from a teacher about the reading assignment, a class is much more likely to be engaged in the readings. But where is the evidence?

Students Chose to Be in the Elective

If you need to convince an administrator that electives engage students far more than core courses demanded by states, Jal Mehta and Sarah Price have much to say about electives in their excellent book In Search of Deeper Learning. They observed required classes and electives in a variety of high schools across the country and found that when students chose a course that they were much more involved in the content:

“In different ways, these electives were able to open up alternative possibilities for schooling, and so unleash an energy and level of student interest that was often absent from core classes. They were able to do so in part because they were buffered from many of the demands and expectations that controlled the rest of the school’s curricula. Because many of the students in electives were seniors, the college pressure was lessened, and there were more opportunities to engage in a learning rather than a performance orientation.” (p.237)

“One of the schools’ prized gems was an elective called “Philosophy as Literature.”… Much of what Mr. Fields did in his Philosophy of Literature class he could and did do in his regular disciplinary classes. Yet the fact that this was an elective made the learning environment more powerful here than in his English I classes, which we also witnessed. That students had chosen to be here was key— there was a kind of rapt, shared attention in this class that we did not see to the same degree in his regular classes…” (p. 237)


Can Electives Replace Core Survey Courses?

The electives that they describe were additions to the standard prescribed content in the high schools they visited. In Maryland where I live, the state requires 3 credits of history: US History, a National, State, and Local  Government requirement–which is a civics course, and World History. And there are the AP electives. The textbook in  Local, State, and National Government is horrible. A more boring book could not be written. (See McGruder’s American Government.)

People are missing in the book. There are no portraits of legislators, or judges or activists, just page after page about the structure of government. Not a word about the people who build governments but local of details about regulatory agencies. It also did not bother to write even a paragraph about Thurgood Marshall who more than did his bit to improve our world . In fact, his name does not appear even once in the book. This is so because experts in the Maryland State Education Department decided that NSL is to be about the structure of government, the branches etc. rather that people who supported or challenged the status quo.

Students have told me that this course is boring. This boring course is taught year after year to every 10th grader in Maryland. Every five years or so, Montgomery County in Maryland fires its superintendent for his or her failure to close the achievement gap in the county. But of course, the curriculum never changes. If textbooks are boring or written at a reading level beyond that of some students, it’s OK. The curriculum never even gets examined. Local principals, and school board members at the Montgomery County Board of Education lack the courage to challenge and replace the state’s horrible choices in reading materials.

It’s Time for Replacements

What would happen locally if a high school started offering the Civil Rights movement either within the NSL course or replacing the NSL course. Would bureaucrats from the state capitol in Annapolis arrive at high schools and arrest local principals for skipping the state’s requirements?

Actual Ebooks for Electives

The titles I suggest below are not a replacement for the titles teachers themselves would choose, but in each topic, I think these ebooks provide much better narratives than what is available in textbooks. Of course,  it is hard to find a lower bar for narratives than the language which appears in textbooks.

The Civil Rights Movement in a Civics Course.

Mary McLeod Bethune by Emma Gelders Sterne. While Bethune is usually thought of as an educator rather than a civil rights activist, education is a fundamental civil right, of course. And readers of this book will see Bethune’s courage as she fights with the K.K.K. The book also offers many opportunities for students to compare obstacles in education then and now in writing.

Freedom Ride, Civil Rights and Non-Violent Resistance by James Peck. This book actually speaks to the conflict between federal laws and local customs that could be part of a civics course. The Supreme Court outlawed segregation in interstate travel in Boynton v. Virginia in 1960, but when activists tested this federal regulation in a bus trip through the South 1961, violence occurred. They were almost beaten to death in an Alabama bus station. The writer received 53 stitches in a hospital after the attack by a mob. What was the response of the federal government to these attacks?

Thurgood Marshall: From His Early Years to Brown by Michael D. Davis and Hunter R. Clark. In this book, readers will see how Thurgood Marshall and his colleagues in the N.A.A.C.P. spent years nudging the Supreme Court toward the Brown decision by bringing a series of earlier court cases. Readers will also learn much about Marshall’s youth in Jim Crow Baltimore. This is only one of the three books in this elective that I have taught, and my students–most of whom were immigrants–said the book helped them learn about race in America. The second biography of Marshall describes the Brown case, and the aftermath to Brown, and Marshall’s work on the Supreme Court. See Thurgood Marshall: His Triumph in Brown, His Years on the Supreme Court.

Study World War II in US History

Serenade to the Big Bird with Maps and a Study Guide by Bert Stiles. “A book of terrific impact. Perhaps the best to come out of World War II.” Philadelphia Inquirer. And this book is easy reading at a 6.2 grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale.

Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific by Robert Leckie. This book is a page turner. A young Marine fights with bravery on island after island in the Pacific War. It is one of  our most popular free downloads, and it sells very well on Amazon. It is one of the two books used to tell the story in the HBO series “War in the Pacific.” One caution. There is a brief reference to a sexual connection with an Australian woman while he is on leave in Australia which may or may not offend your students and their parents. Easy reading at 7.2 grade level.

An Army of Amateurs and Escape from Corregidor are also exciting books at the 7th grade reading level.


Study Revolutions in Europe in World History

Two witnesses to the Russian revolution brought back quite different opinions about the value of the revolution to the Russians and the world. Both accounts are highly readable. See Runaway Russia on this site with a grade level of 6.4, and Ten Days that Shook the World by John Reed on Project Gutenberg. Reed’s book has a reading level of 8.1.

In The Mad Dog of Europe, readers will see the strategies Hitler used to take power in Germany. The back story to this novel is fascinating but in a sad way. Why did Hollywood suppress this story in its original version as a film script in the early 30s? The introduction explains. Easy reading at 6.3.