Just Mercy Book Club // Grab your copy now, and join the conversation!

We are excited to announce our summer OER Conference for Social Studies Book Club pick! This month you are invited to join us in reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, who happens to be our keynote speaker on August 3. He is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.

Our community discussion about Just Mercy will be led by Jayson Wilkinson from the OER Project Team, and Hajra Saeed, BHP teacher in Long Beach, CA.  We’ll kick off with our first book club driving question on July 15 right here in this thread, located in the OER Conference for Social Studies discussion forum. We’ll post a new driving question each Thursday for three weeks leading up to the conference which takes place August 3-5. So don't wait, grab a copy of the book, bookmark this thread so you can return on the 15th, and prepare for some rich discussions with other members of the community. Let the reading begin! 

Just Mercy // Week One Questions

We are excited to start our book club conversation on Just Mercy as we make our way to Bryan Stevenson’s August 3rd keynote address in the OER Conference for Social Studies. Post your thoughts and answers to the questions below, or add your own question.  and  will be leading the conversation and will be checking in throughout the day to respond to the discussion.   

  • Did Just Mercy make you want to explore an aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system more closely? If so, what part and why?  
  • In Just Mercy, Stevenson tells us his story of growth and discovery in relation to his understanding of the U.S. criminal justice system. Have you had a similar journey in your own life? 

Post your comments below and let's get the conversation started!

Just Mercy // Week Two Questions

  • As you are reading Just Mercy, is there a quote that "sticks with you?" Why? 
  • Is there a specific call to action that can be taken from a reading of Just Mercy? If so, what is it? 

Let's continue the conversation by posting in the comments below.

Just Mercy // Week Three Questions

  • How do the topics and concepts in Just Mercy connect to your work with students? 
  • What lessons from Just Mercy or Stevenson are you taking with you as you prepare to welcome students back to our school communities in the fall? 
  • Do know of a specific person (whether they are a personal connection, colleague, or something else) that would benefit from reading and discussing Just Mercy with you? What makes you think that and what lessons might they learn?

Post your response to the questions in the comments below as we complete our final week of the Book Club. Be sure to join us for Bryan Stevenson's Keynote Address on August 3 at 9:00 AM PDT!

Top Replies

  • The quote that sticks with me is "We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent." It stuck…

  • For me, Just Mercy really pushed me to question my position in institutions. When I started teaching, I think I was comfortable just doing what I was told and keeping my head above water in my new school…

  • Is it possible that I jump on to the Just Mercy Train? I got to the station late, and would love to hop aboard if it is still an option. Can I hop aboard.  

  • Hi everyone,

    I haven't started the book yet, but I've read all the posts here to prepare myself emotionally for what I'm up against.

    I know that reading this will have an impact on me. I know that I will want to bring up the topics and situations with my students. But how?

    I need ideas for how to purposely plan to talk about injustice and to talk about racial injustice. It seems disingenuous to just start such a conversation. But when an opportunity presents itself I want to be ready. How can teachers bring these ideas into the classroom so that students feel safe, administrators don't get freaked out, and parents don't feel like I've overstepped my position?

    I'm not afraid to tackle tough issues. But I want to do so in a way that keeps the topics alive, not incites an opposition that might shut it all down.

  •  , your concerns are valid. Your post actually reminded me of  's powerful track talk from the 2020 OC for Social Studies, in which she discussed how she approached teaching about climate change. Rather than teaching students what to think about climate change, she guided them through research to form their own conclusions. I wonder if a similar approach might work here. Perhaps, when teaching about social hierarchies and/or legal systems in early civilizations, you could ask students to determine the extent to which inequality exists in our modern social constructs. If I remember correctly, your students are younger, so perhaps you could provide them with a body of resources - for example, a Newsela text set and book excerpt(s) - for support. 

    I'm curious to hear others' thoughts. For the most part, my students care deeply about social justice and speaking out against racism. However, after one of my colleagues endured an upsetting response to wearing a BLM shirt to school, I am extra aware of how essential it is to approach teaching about racial inequality and injustice with forethought and sensitivity. 

  • I am usually someone who doesn't mind the pressure of pushing back, but having also endured attacks for showing support for BLM (I literally had a BLM sticker on my mandated "Bio Slide" admin had us do, along with my rainbow sticker but nobody complained about that one...this time) this year, I can empathize  and  .

    This is why I think we as a group should be prepared to advocate and support teachers who do this hard work, because tackling the blowback on your own sucks, it nearly sunk me last year and I knew it was coming and was used to navigating it.

    I will continue to use the approach of daily #hastags related to ongoing events and prompting students to ask socratic questions in our daily entry discussions and see where it goes from there. I'm hoping to use Caste with my College in the HS students (I wrote a grant and got  and I class sets of the book) since they transition into 11th grade US (where they don't often get deep learning not offered by the textbook). 

    A close read of my districts new controversial issues policy (not as bad as the previous but still bad) is in order too, as is evidenced by teachers (see links below) being fired or threatened for engaging in discussions of race, inequities, and historical fact seemingly will increase.

    I understand that not everyone is willing, or able, to put themselves out there, but for me, it feels like a responsibility to continue to engage in discussions/examinations that make white people uncomfortable (I teach in a suburban paradise,, the exact sort of area often most resistant to/avoidant of the historical realities outside of daily experiences).

    Tri-Cities, WA. Teacher Threatened for being Zinn Ed. Member (I hope they come for me on this one too!)...


    Teacher Fired for using Ta-Nehisi Coates—“The First White President


  • Is it possible that I jump on to the Just Mercy Train? I got to the station late, and would love to hop aboard if it is still an option. Can I hop aboard.  

    1. Hi  ! It's never too late to join the conversation! The train's pulling in to the station right now so you can hop aboard and participate! We're glad to have you participating. New questions will be posted Thursday, but feel free to pose your own questions or respond to anything already posted. Welcome!
  • Any tips on the  quickest way to get a copy? 

  • Local library would probably be the fastest way, but if you have a nearby bookstore, they should also have it.

  • Welcome, Paul! I accessed the book via the Libby app, which is free through my local public library. It has a great selection of ebooks and audiobooks. 

  • I ordered it and it will be here tomorrow. Thank You!

  • Just Mercy // Week Two Questions

    • As you are reading Just Mercy, is there a quote that "sticks with you?" Why? 
    • Is there a specific call to action that can be taken from a reading of Just Mercy? If so, what is it? 
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