Gloriana Hemphill, whose nickname is Glory, is an 11 year old girl growing up in the small town of Hanging Moss, Mississippi during the 1960s. It is the summer of 1964, which is known as “Freedom Summer”, and it is nothing that Glory hoped it would be. Her sister Jesslyn doesn’t want to be seen with her, Frankie is acting weird, and the community pool is closing! Although people are saying there are cracks in the pool that need fixing, Glory knows better. Glory Be is a wonderfully written historical fiction story that accurately depicts life in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, a time when hope was there, but true equality was still a long way from becoming a reality.
Glory and her best friend Frankie do everything together. They especially love going to the community pool. One hot day in June, a sign appears on the pool fence: the pool is closed due to cracks that need repair! Glory smells something fishy; there are no cracks in the pool, just old bobby pins and gross chewed up gum. How could this be? It turns out Glory’s suspicions were right: the town closed the pool so that the black people couldn’t use it. Glory was furious.
Meanwhile, there are people coming to town from the North. They are known as the Freedom Riders, and they are in Mississippi to help with integration and equal rights for all. Glory meets a girl named Laura, who is here with her mother. Her mother is working at the Freedom Clinic to give black people equal healthcare. Glory likes Laura, but many people in the town do not. Glory’s sister, Jesslyn, has also befriended a boy from the North named Robbie. Robbie, like Laura, is not like many of the townsfolk, and it is not well liked at all. They are known as troublemakers and the people of Hanging Moss do not want their kind around.
Frankie is dealing with his own issues at home. His older brother, J.T., is as mean as their father, and often hits Frankie. Glory is sad to see their friendship struggle, but she still tells Frankie a big secret about Robbie: he was arrested in North Carolina for sticking up for a black friend. This information gets out, and Jesslyn is furious at her sister for blabbing. It seems that nothing is going right for Glory, when all she wants to do is celebrate her 12th birthday at the pool with her friends and family.
Things start heating up in the town when the pool is broken into, and Laura is blamed. Glory knows Laura didn’t do it, but it’s too late; Laura’s mother has decided not to stay in Hanging Moss. Robbie is confronted by J.T. and his friends, and they beat him up mercilessly. Robbie, along with Laura, will be returning home to the North, since neither feel safe in Mississippi anymore. When Miss Bloom, the librarian, throws a thank you party at the library for all who helped with the Fourth of July parade, Glory brings Emma, who is the family’s black maid and a very dear friend of Glory’s. Although there are still many people who do not like that Emma is at the party, or the idea of integration at all, Glory is happy to see that the town is starting to come together. Perhaps a change is near.
Glory Be is an accurate and well written depiction of what life was like in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. Students will relate to the coming of age situations and issues that the characters face such as friendship, acceptance, and family, while also learning about an important time in American history.