Jacques Lusserain, a blind teenage leader in the French Resistance, is a wonderful moral ancestor for us to choose as we commit ourselves to taking action for social justice. Take a look at this excerpt from the website Turn Your Excuses into Action:
In 1941, when he was just sixteen years old, Lusseyran created Volontaires de la Liberté — the Volunteers of Liberty — and recruited 600 of his peers into the French Resistance movement. With the Germans occupying the city of Paris where he lived, and censoring the news coming into France, he and his compatriots began publishing and distributing a bi-weekly underground news bulletin. The Volunteers of Liberty then joined with another, larger Resistance group, Défense de la France (Defense of France). Jacques served on the organization’s Executive Committee and editorial board, and used the little army of young men he had built up to distribute the DF’s own newspaper and grow its circulation to a quarter of a million.
Even when he was eventually arrested and held at the Buchenwald concentration camp, Lusseyran continued to resist the Germans and aid his fellow men — starting yet another covert news organization in order to build morale and encourage the hopes of his fellow prisoners.
Jacques Lusseyran perfectly embodied the maxim of Theodore Roosevelt to “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” At every turn, he could have made perfectly sensible excuses for sitting on his hands and doing nothing: “I’m blind! I’m only 16! I live in an occupied country!” Instead, he was always looking for some way to take action.
And here are a few more moral ancestors to inspire us to action–and hope. And for picture book recommendations, see Resistance Part I: Learning From Our Moral Ancestors, Recommended Picture Books for Young Readers .
Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent by Pearl Witherington Comioley and Kathryn J. Atwood
Part memoir, part interview, this primary source is perfect for teens interested in getting a first-hand look at the making of a resistance fighter. Pearl worked as a courier in France for the Resistance under the code name “Pauline.” Her story is simply but powerfully told, as she chronicles the steps that led her to her decision to risk everything to fight for justice. Her “intense anger” against the many injustices carried out by the Germans propelled her to act. “Never lose hope, never give in,” is her fierce message to young readers. I’d start with this one! Grade 7 and older.
Talk about inspiration! Here is a stunning and moving collection of activists, to inspire today’s young adults (and all of us); many of these Resistance fighters were still in their teens. It puts to rest the question, “Can one person make a difference?” while at the same time demonstrating the importance of working together in community. These women come from all over the world, are sometimes famous (Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich), and often everyday working folks. I appreciate the way Atwood puts each women’s contribution in context by describing the history and situation. Very readable and engaging. Suitable for grades 5 and older.