Freedom Lessons

by – Eileen Harrison Sanchez (Author)

A Novel 

Available on Amazon

Book Description:

Told alternately, by Colleen, an idealistic young white teacher; Frank, a black high school football player; and Evelyn, an experienced black teacher, Freedom Lessons is the story of how the lives of these three very different people intersect in a rural Louisiana town in 1969.

Colleen enters into the culture of the rural Louisiana town with little knowledge of the customs and practices. She is compelled to take sides after the school is integrated―an overnight event for which the town’s residents are unprepared, and which leads to confusion and anxiety in the community―and her values are tested as she seeks to understand her black colleagues, particularly Evelyn. Why doesn’t she want to integrate the public schools? Frank, meanwhile, is determined to protect his mother and siblings after his father’s suspicious death―which means keeping a secret from everyone around him.

Based on the author’s experience teaching in Louisiana in the late sixties, this heartfelt, unflinching novel about the unexpected effects of school integration during that time takes on the issues our nation currently faces regarding race, unity, and identity.

Reviews for the Book

2022 Canadian Book Club Awards: Finalist, Fiction
2020 Story Circle’s Women’s Book Awards, Historical Fiction
2020 Sarton Finalist: Historical Fiction
Chosen as a 2020 Pulpwood Queens Book Club pick
2019 Best Book Awards Finalist in Fiction (Multicultural)
“When 'all deliberate speed' becomes 'all of a sudden,' not much changes. An intermittently potent illustration of the formidable obstacles to equality that remained—and persist—post-Brown v. Board of Education.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“This powerful tale offers a beacon of hope that individuals can inspire change.”
—Library Journal

“ . . . a deftly crafted novel that, although a work of fiction, is based on the author Eileen Sanchez' personal experience teaching in Louisiana in the late sixties. Freedom Lessons is heartfelt, unflinching novel, and inherently riveting novel about the unexpected effects of school integration during that time takes on the issues our nation continues to face regarding race, unity, and identity.”
—Midwest Book Review

“Freedom Lessons is a captivating and well-written story. Reading this book has changed me personally and professionally. The Deep South no doubt plays its role—the further you read in the story, the more hot and humid it starts to feel around you. Eileen succeeds where historians and academics like myself fail—recounting major societal events through the inescapable and complex humanity of her characters. A distinguished educator herself, Eileen fully delivers on the challenge of framing what teaching and learning was during this era, and Freedom Lessons forces us to ask the question of what it should be now.”
—Michael R. Hicks, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Education, Centenary College of Louisiana

”Inspired by the author’s real-life experiences, Freedom Lessons is a candid and nuanced novel about a young Northern woman who spends a year teaching in the 1960s Jim Crow South. In the process, she learns more about herself and her country than she ever expected. Freedom Lessons is illuminating and gripping, and a worthy addition to the literature of the civil rights era.”
—Amy Hill Hearth, New York Times and Washington Post best-selling author and recipient of two American Library Association Notable Book citations

”In her riveting novel, Eileen Sanchez makes us feel the pain of a Louisiana community as deeply rooted prejudice undercuts school integration. Through her three characters—a white teacher from out of state, a hometown teacher scarred by personal slights, and a high school senior denied a football career when his team is relegated to second string—we experience their heartfelt frustrations while wishing history had treated them more kindly. Sanchez’s fiction gives us a glimpse into the truth of a highly flawed time and place, and the corrosive nature of prejudice that unfortunately persists today.”
—Michelle Cameron, author of The Fruit of Her Hands and Beyond the Ghetto Gates

”Told in alternating viewpoints, this impressive novel reaches back in time to the early days of school integration, and to a place in America where resistance to integration was substantial.”
—Historical Novel Society

”This powerful story of lives shaped by school integration in the deep south shows us the fear and deeply held prejudices that marked the time, the place, and the people. But we also see the kindness, courage, and risks that offered hope and ignited change. Sanchez is a masterful storyteller. Her characters leaped off the page into my heart—where they’ve stayed. Freedom Lessons is a novel that illustrates how far we’ve come, while at the same time reminding us how much more we have to do.”
—Donna Cameron, award-winning author of A Year of Living Kindly: Choices That Will Change Your Life and the World Around You

“All of us who care about our democracy and what it aspires to be will benefit from reading this heart-felt novel based on the author's own experience. It's a powerful part of the story of rights abused and rights fought for during the Civil Rights movement. And by being personal, it touches and, most importantly, can move us to fight for rights ourselves. A great addition to the classroom where the lessons can reach beyond the four walls.”
—Peter Nelson, Former NY Office Executive Director of Facing History and Ourselves

“A poignant snapshot of the real-life impact of integration in the American South during a single school year in 1969, when one step forward was usually accompanied by another, often worse, step back. A reminder that genuine cultural change requires so much more than the right intentions and a good heart.”
—Rita Dragonette, author of The Fourteenth of September

“Eileen Sanchez offers a rare look at a tumultuous period in our nation’s history—the desegregation of the schools. Freedom Lessons beautifully portrays the angst felt by a young, white woman when she is transferred to teach at a newly integrated school, a young black football player betrayed by the system, and a young black teacher who is fighting her own set of demons. Sanchez is able to deftly jump between perspectives, fully immersing the reader in a different time and place. Heart-wrenching at times, Freedom Lessons will leave you inspired and wanting more. Sanchez gives us much to think about that is relevant even today. A captivating new voice!”
—Michelle Cox, author of the award-winning Henrietta and Inspector Howard series

“Sanchez masterfully tells the historically fictive story of a young white teacher caught up in the turbulent struggles of desegregation in the Deep South in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Freedom Lessons reminds us of a dark period in our history, and of the importance of an equal opportunity education for all. A must read for our generation and generations to come.”
—Kari Bovee, author of the Annie Oakley Mystery series

“The feelings that linger after the final page will stick around and burn a hole in your pillow late at night”
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

About the Author: Eileen Harrison Sanchez

Eileen Harrison Sanchez is now retired after a forty-year career in education. She started as a teacher and ended as a district administrator. She has been writing part time for seven years with a writers group in Summit, NJ ( She is a member of the Historical Writers of America, Historical Novel Society, Philadelphia Stories Writers Community, Goodreads American Historical Novels Group, and several online writers groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. A reader, a writer, and a perennial—a person with a no-age mindset—Sanchez considers family and friends to be the most important parts of her life, followed by traveling and bird watching from her gazebo.