Book Excerpt
It's Our World Too! : Young People Who Are Making a Difference, How They Do It -- How You Can, Too!
by Phillip Hoose

An excerpt from It's Our World Too! : Young People Who Are Making a Difference, How They Do It -- How You Can, Too! by Phillip Hoose, published 2002 by Sunburst.
Book excerpt reprinted with the permission of the publisher.
Copyright © 2002 Phillip Hoose


Book Excerpt


You may not know it, but young activists helped win America's independence, end slavery, secure better conditions for workers, and win civil rights for all Americans. In most history books, you never hear about them. "We're not taught about younger people who have made a difference," says Sarah Rosen, fourteen, who led a demonstration for women's rights at her school when she was ten. "So studying history almost makes you feel like you're not a real person."

Before you read about kids who are working for peace and justice today, take a look at a few who went before you.


Ebeneezer Fox was a fifteen-year-old apprentice barber in 1779 when he heard a man in a crowded Boston street singing:

All you that have bad masters,
And cannot get your due;
Come, come, my brave boys,
And join with our ship's crew.

Nobody could have better described the way Ebeneezer felt. And there were tens of thousands of apprentices in Colonial cities who felt the same way. They were boys, usually between the ages of ten and seventeen, whose fathers signed a contract for them to live with a master tradesman, such as a watchmaker, leather tanner, or shoemaker, for seven years.

Most boys hated their apprenticeships. They got no pay at all for seven years. Often they were treated like servants, doing chores around their masters' houses and land. Sometimes they were beaten. Often the master didn't teach them the trade until the very end of the contract, and then only for fear that the apprentice would run away.

When the Colonies began agitating for independence in the 1760s and 1770s, many boys like Ebeneezer Fox, organized and fought against Great Britain.

They dreamed that in a new nation of free citizens, they, too, would be independent -- not only from the British but from their masters as well. They compared themselves to the Colonies and their masters to King George III of England. Ebeneezer wrote in his journal:

I and other boys situated similarly to myself, thought . . . it was our duty and our privilege to assert our own rights. . . . I was doing myself a great injustice by remaining in bondayge, when I ought to go free; and that the time was come when I should liberate myself from the thraldom of others.

While Ebeneezer and other apprentices left their masters to battle British soldiers, girls fought for independence, too. They joined their mothers in "patriotic sewing circles," spinning cloth as fast as they could to make up for the cloth they now refused to buy from the British. "As I am (as we say) a daughter of liberty I chuse to wear as much of my own manufactory as possible," wrote twelve-year-old Anna Winslow of Boston in 1772.

The girls knew their quick fingers were just as important to liberty as were the fingers wrapped around muskets and bayonets. Charity Clark, fifteen, who spun wool from her home in New York City, wrote to her British cousin that freedom would be won not only by soldiers, but by "a 5 fighting army of amazones [strong women] . . . armed with spinning wheels."


In the fall of 1790, nine young boys -- the oldest was twelve -- from poor families in Rhode Island became the first factory workers in American history. They had been hired to work in a textile mill, using newly invented machinery to turn yarn into cotton. They were the first of a great tide of child laborers.

By 1830, more than a million children worked in textile mills. Many worked from dawn till dusk every day but Sunday. They made perhaps a dollar a week, which they turned over to their parents. Their only holidays were Christmas, Easter, and a half day for the Fourth of July.

In the 1830s, children began to fight for their rights by joining and leading dozens of strikes for more pay and shorter hours. Eleven-year-old Harriet Hanson was one of 1,500 girls who walked out of a giant textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1836 to protest the company's plan to raise the fees they had to pay to sleep in a company-owned boarding house.

On the day of the strike, while the girls on the upper floors walked out of the mill singing, the girls on Harriet's floor hesitated. They began to whisper. What if they lost their jobs? What would the company do to them?

Harriet was disgusted. "What do we have to lose?" she asked. Still, they stood indecisively at their looms. "I don't care what you do," she said finally. "I am going to turn out whether anyone else does or not."

Eyes straight ahead, Harriet turned around and marched toward the door. In the next moment, she heard a great shuffling of feet. She looked back to see the entire floor lining up behind her. Harriet never forgot her moment of decision. "As I looked back on the long line that followed me," she later wrote, "I was more proud than I have ever been since."


The first black children to live in America had been snatched from their homes in Africa, chained, and thrown into the bottoms of crowded ships for a long, stormy voyage across the Atlantic. Many died on the way.

Those who survived were sold to plantation owners. They were measured and weighed and auctioned as if they were cattle or sheep. They became part of their white master's property, along with his furniture and crops and land.

Black babies were often separated from their parents to prevent love within families from threatening the masters' control. Boys and girls were made to do hard work in the fields and around the plantation house from the time they were very young. They were not allowed to learn to read or write. They were often whipped.

Between 1820 and 1860, thousands of slaves fled the South into the free Northern states and all the way to Canada in a long relay chain of secret houses called the Underground Railroad. There was no map; a runaway slave learned the path one station, as the houses were called, at a time. The runaways were tracked like animals by hunters on horseback, who received a bounty, or reward, for every escaped slave they caught.

Since the bounty hunters paid closest attention to adults, it was often up to the children of families on the Underground Railroad to act as "conductors" -- to took out for runaway slaves and hide them before the slave catchers could capture them.

In the 1820s, a young Quaker boy named Allen Jay lived in an Underground Railroad station in southern Indiana. Whenever runaway slaves appeared, Allen ran out from his hiding place in a peach orchard and hustled them to safety, conducting them through the peach trees and on into a cornfield, where they would run crouching between tall rows of corn until they reached the base of a big walnut tree. There he would tell the fugitive to rest until he could return with a basket of food.

Once it was dark, Allen would harness his parents' horse to a wagon full of straw, which he heaped over the runaway. Then he would drive five miles north to the next station -- his grandfather's house.

Lucinda Wilson was another young conductor. She lived in southern Ohio. Like Allen, it was her job to look out for runaways and help them. One morning when she was thirteen, a movement caught her eye while she was picking berries in a field near her house. She saw two young runaway girls hiding at the edge of the field. As she walked closer, she could see they were exhausted, their bare feet swollen and bleeding.

She helped them back to her home and began to fix them a meal while they lay down. Suddenly there was a heavy knock on the door. Quickly Lucinda pulled the girls up the stairs to her room. She helped push one girl into a clothes hamper. She gave the other a set of her nightclothes, and the two leapt into bed together, the runaway hiding her face inside Lucinda's nightcap.

Instantly they heard boot steps on the stairs. Two bounty hunters burst open the door to Lucinda's room, but all they could see were two girls sleeping soundly. They left quickly, apologizing as they retreated. Months later, Lucinda learned that the two girls had arrived safely -- and free -- in Canada.

It's Our World Too! : Young People Who Are Making a Difference, How They Do It -- How You Can, Too! by Phillip Hoose,

Book Description from the Publisher

Our World, Too! is a dynamic and practical companion to Phillip Hoose's We There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History, which School Library Journal, in a starred review, calls "a treasure chest of history come to life."

* Finalist for the National Book Award
* Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
* Booklist Editors' Choice
* A Horn Book Fanfare Book
* An ALA Notable Book
* A New York Public Library "Book for the Teen Age"
* A Lupine Award Honor Book, Maine Library Association * Christopher Award Winner

It's Our World Too! : Young People Who Are Making a Difference, How They Do It -- How You Can, Too! by Phillip Hoose,

About the Author

Phillip Hoose is an award-winning author of books, essays, stories, songs, and articles.

It's Our World Too! : Young People Who Are Making a Difference, How They Do It -- How You Can, Too! by Phillip Hoose,

Book Reviews

"It's Our World, Too! is a clearheaded, good-hearted guide to help young people empower themselves."

-- Gloria Steinem

"Two books in one: first, fourteen fascinating accounts of children working for human rights, the needy, the environment, or world peace . . . Second, a handbook for young activists, with practical suggestions for planning, organizing, publicizing, and raising funds for social action projects."

-- Kirkus Reviews

"An invaluable book ... Reads with intensity and should convince young readers that they can make a difference in the attitudes and policies of their world."

-- BOXED REVIEW / Booklist

"This absorbing and energizing book deserves shelf space in every classroom and library."

-- STARRED / Publishers Weekly

It's Our World Too! : Young People Who Are Making a Difference, How They Do It -- How You Can, Too! by Phillip Hoose,