A STRONG RIGHT ARM: THE STORY OF MAMIE “PEANUT” JOHNSON (Puffin Reprint Edition, 2004)
Written by Michelle Y. Green
Illlustrated by Kadir Nelson
Grades 3 and Up
The website Teaching Tolerance
encourages educators to incorporate black history year-round, not just in February. Teachers can use the month of February to help students dig deeper into history and make connections with the past through studying lesser known African American heroes. One such hero was Mamie “Peanut” Johnson.
A STRONG RIGHT ARM: THE STORY OF MAMIE “PEANUT” JOHNSON teaches perseverance when faced with adversity. This is the inspiring biography of Mamie Johnson, a girl who dreamed big and became one of only three women to play professional baseball. Mamie always dreamt of baseball since childhood – her passion for the game and the influence of famous ballplayer Jackie Robinson helped drive her to become a professional baseball pitcher in the Negro Leagues from 1953-1955.
Readers will enter a time in America’s history where discrimination against African Americans was rampant. Mamie persevered even when people thought she was crazy for wanting to play in a sport dominated by white men. Although Mamie’s dream came true, her journey was full of hardship. Not only was she discriminated against for the color of her skin, but also because she was a girl. But her can-do-spirit and courage overcame these difficult challenges that not many others would willingly choose to face. Cross-Curricular Connections:
History/Social Studies, Language Arts/English, Multicultural Content Ideas for Classroom Use: Lessons of Empathy and Courage:
Provide quotes from the book displaying discrimination and ask students to explain in their own words how it would feel to be treated in the way described.
Some examples: “You’re just a dumb old girl, and a colored one.”
“This colored girl thinks she can play ball. Tell her she can’t, Coach.”
“Just because that colored boy Robinson and a few of his buddies wormed their way in to the majors, doesn’t mean we want colored gals playing next to our girls.”
Follow Up Questions for Discussion:
- How did Mamie conduct herself when met with such disrespect?
- Why did she choose not to fight back with equal words of hate?
- Why do you think Mamie chose to continue pursuing her dream even though people tried to keep her out of baseball?
Define for the students the word “obstacle” as it relates to goals. Ask students to complete a chart identifying the obstacles Mamie encountered while she pursued her dream and explain the decisions she made to overcome them.
Have students stand in a circle and begin by tossing a small ball to one student and have them say a goal they would like to accomplish. After sharing, that student tosses the ball to another until all the students have had a turn.
- What did you learn from Mamie’s story about reaching your own goal?
- What character traits did Mamie use to help her be successful in reaching her goals?
- What choices can we make when something we tried to do did not work out the way we thought it would?
Have students use Wordle
to generate a word cloud that identifies character traits they will need to accomplish a goal. Explore more literature on lesser known athletes who overcame barriers to succeed in their chosen sport:
Crowe, Ellie (2007) SURFER OF THE CENTURY: THE LIFE OF DUKE KAHANAMOKU
Miller, William (1999) NIGHT GOLF
Stauffacher, Sue (2007) NOTHING BUT TROUBLE, THE STORY OF ALTHEA GIBSON
Wise, Bill (2007) LOUIS SOCKALEXIS: NATIVE AMERICAN BASEBALL PIONEER
Yoo, Paula (2005) SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY Additional Resources and Activities: Reading Rockets Resources for Black History Month
The Reading Rockets website has gathered some great resources for educators to share with students in February or any day. Resources include information about:
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum: Electronic Resources for Teachers
- Writers, illustrators, and storytellers
- Recommended children’s books
- Activities for the classroom and the community
- People and events
- Online guides to African American history
- PBS television programs
Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball there was Negro League Baseball. This site features history, a timeline, photos, and teacher resources, including lessons for Grades 9-12. African American Athletes
Brief biographies and film clips of outstanding African American athletes. Don’t miss the links to legal and political figures, scientists and educators, activists, artists and writers, entertainers, and musicians and singers. Teaching Tolerance
Teaching Tolerance is a website dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation's children. Educators will find a wealth of lesson plans and curriculum on this site. Roxanne Davidson has been working as an elementary school counselor since obtaining her Master's Degree in Education in 2005. Bibliotherapy has always been a passion of hers as she has witnessed the healing power of books in her students' lives. She has made it her mission to help teachers, children, and parents find contemporary books to help them address the many issues kids currently deal with in the classroom and at home. This inspired her to start the popular book review blog, Books That Heal Kids. Besides writing for her blog she enjoys running, reading and spending time with her husband and daughter.
© 2013 Roxanne Davidson. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. Plagiarism: Caught in the Middle by Michelle Y. Green THOR and the Thesis Statement by Michelle Y. Green