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Mississippi Bridge

by Mildred Taylor

Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum discusses Mississippi Bridge along with three other powerful stories by Mildred Taylor which provide a solid foundation for an author study.

Song of the Trees, Mississippi Bridge, and The Friendship have the same characters, allowing students to make intertextual links very easily. The Gold Cadillac has different characters but many of the same themes, fostering intertextual connections on a deeper level.

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Below you will find a synopsis, further reading materials, discussion topics, and reviews that you might find useful during your teaching of Mississippi Bridge.

A Synopsis

Mississippi Bridge is told by Jeremy Simms, a shy ten-year-old white boy. One day Jeremy sees a bus driver roughly force black passengers off the bus to make room for more white passengers. Soon afterward, the bus veers off a rickety bridge and into an overflowing river. Jeremy and his black friend Josias, who was kicked off the bus, courageously attempt to save the passengers, but many are drowned.

Further Reading and Links

The following sites can be used to support and enrich the Book Club unit for Mississippi Bridge by Mildred Taylor.

About the Author and the Book

  • The University of Mississippi — Ole Miss, as the University of Mississippi is commonly called, put together a biography about Mildred D.Taylor who was born in the state. Besides information about the author, it provides a list of her books.
  • Penguin — The publisher provides another biography of Mildred D.Taylor.
  • Mississippi Writers & Musicians — Besides biographical information this site offers reviews to some of her books.
  • Kirkus Book Review — At this site, visitors can read a review about Mississippi Bridge published by the magazine Kirkus.

Explore the Setting of the Novel

  • Mississippi — The Infoplease website has compiled quick facts about Mississippi including where the state's name came from.
  • Mississippi Maps — This site provides access to many maps of Mississippi, ranging from views of the entire state to city maps and maps of the national parks.

Find Out More About the Historical Context of the Novel

  • African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship — This Library of Congress exhibit conducts the visitor on a splendid tour through time beginning with slavery and ending in the civil rights era. Facts are balanced with reproductions of historical documents, photographs, and drawings, bringing significant events and important people in African American history to life.
  • Africans in America — On this site, an overview of each time period from 1450 to 1865 is given, followed by more in-depth discussions of various aspects of the era by scholars and historians.
  • Civil Rights Movement — The History site provides an overview of the Civil Rights movement. The site offers links to main events during the time, timelines, videos, and pictures.
  • Seperate is not Equal — The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History's Brown v. Board of Education exhibition talks about segregation, the education system, and what it meant for African Americans.
  • PBS: Jim Crow Laws — Learn about the Jim Crow laws, segregation, and personal accounts by individuals who experienced those times.

Big Theme Questions

What is racism? In what ways does racist behavior hurt everyone in a community?

Are there times when you should be silent about your beliefs, even if you feel you are right? Why or why not?

Are laws always fair? What makes a law good or bad? What can individuals do about bad laws?

What are the qualities of a true friend?

How can a strong family help its members overcome obstacles in life?

Outline of Lesson Plan | Discussion Topics | Writing Prompts

The following section can be used to get discussions started in your classroom. It is based on the author study: Mildred Taylor Lesson Plan within Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum. The Lesson Plan includes blackline masters for the students that support the writing prompts. The writing prompts provided are meant as suggestions only. As students become more comfortable with the Book Club format, they will certainly have ideas and questions that go beyond the prompts. Consider giving students “free choice” as a log option. Book Club Reading Logs help students respond to literature and organize ideas as they participate in Book Club.

Mississippi Bridge
Literary Elements: Point of View
Comprehension: Family Relationships
Response to Literature: Feelings About the Story
Response to Literature: Analyzing the Author’s Purpose

  • Write about the differing ways John Wallace treats his customers. How does he treat Rudine and her mama? How does he treat Miz Hattie McElroy and Grace-Anne?
  • What is revealed about Jeremy when he says that he and Josias are friends?
  • Describe the relationship between Jeremy and his father from the details given in these pages.
  • Why do you think Jeremy is so drawn to the Logans? Compare what you know of his family life with what you learn about the Logan family.
  • What do you learn about Stacey, Cassie, Christopher-John, and Little Man in this section of the book?
  • Describe your feelings about what happens to Josias and Jeremy in this part of the book.
  • What are some examples of foreshadowing in today’s reading?
  • Why do you think Mildred Taylor wrote this story? What is her message?
  • Explain the irony of the ending of the story

Song of the Trees
Literary Elements: Imagery and Dialect
Literary Elements: Characterization and Symbolism
Language Conventions: Qualities of a Good Book Club Discussion

  • Draw a picture of the forest.
  • What do you learn about the setting of the story from what Mama and Big Ma say and do?
  • How does Cassie feel about the trees in the forest? How do you know?
  • Make character maps of Mr. Andersen and Mama, or write a paragraph describing a character in detail.
  • What is Stacey doing in the story? Why? What would you do if you were in this situation?
  • What does Mr. Andersen mean when he says that Cassie’s father could have an accident?
  • Draw a time line of the events that happen.
  • What do you think the title of the book means?
  • Interpret Papa’s statement: “And it don’t make me any difference if I die today or tomorrow. Just as long as I die right.”

The Friendship
Comprehension: Intertextual Connections
Response to Literature: Concept Web About Friendship
Comprehension: Understanding Characters’ Motives

  • What do you think is happening in this part of the story? Think about the other books you’ve read as you support your opinion.
  • Chart the conflicts you find in the story. How are they related to the setting of the story? What do you think might occur as a result of these conflicts?
  • Describe the characters of Dewberry and Thurston.
  • Write about friendship and how friendship is defined in the story.
  • Write about a time when you kept a promise to a friend even though it was hard to do. Or, write about a time when you didn’t. How did the situation make you feel?
  • When the Logans and Mr. Bee return to the store, why isn’t Jeremy eating his candy cane?
  • What thoughts might be going through Mr. Bee’s mind after he turns to look at Stacey?
  • Why doesn’t Mr. Wallace shoot again?

The Gold Cadillac
Literary Elements: Symbolism
Comprehension: Comparing and Contrasting

  • What do you learn about the setting of this story?
  • What is ’lois’s feeling about the Cadillac? How do their relatives and neighbors react?
  • Why does ’lois’s mother refuse to ride in the Cadillac? Do you think she is right?
  • Compare and contrast the two settings of the story.
  • Why does ’lois’s father sell the Cadillac? What does this reveal about his values?
  • Add details about this story to your story elements chart.

Compare and Contrast the Novels
Literary Elements: Theme

  • Identify recurring themes and other common elements in the four stories.
  • What did you enjoy about the characters, settings, and themes in Taylor’s books. Which elements made you uncomfortable?
  • Mildred Taylor’s books teach us about life. What is the best lesson about life that you have learned from her books?
  • Which character from the four stories do you admire the most? Why? Give evidence from the story to support your choice. How does Mildred Taylor shape this character?
  • Mildred Taylor’s books have themes of prejudice and racism. How have her books influenced your thinking about racism and prejudice?
  • Write about another issue in Taylor’s stories that you think is important or interesting.
  • Relate information about the author to her motives for writing.