Children's book introduces readers to a lesser-known civil rights hero

Posted August 17

When Loki Mulholland was growing up, he and his brothers never fully knew all that their mother, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, did for the civil rights movement.

“There was always these pictures that were there of the sit-ins and so forth,” Loki Mulholland said. “To us, it’s just like any other picture you see of your parents when they were young.”

Mulholland began learning his mother’s stories while researching for a documentary titled “An Ordinary Hero.” When he would ask his mother why she never told him the experiences she took part in, her response was always, “You never asked.” After releasing the documentary, Mulholland began to write the story of his mother into a book.

Mulholland’s recent books — a children's book and an extended version for older readers, both titled “She Stood for Freedom: The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland” (Shadow Mountain, $17.99 and $14.99) — highlight his mother and her courageous actions in the 1950s, including participating in Freedom Rides, the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Selma Montgomery March and various sit-ins and protests. According to the books, Joan Mulholland stood for civil rights against her mother’s wishes, even at a young age.

“(Joan) knew, despite what her family and society believed, that separating people and treating them differently because of the color of their skin was wrong,” a line in the extended book reads. “She decided she was going to do something about it when she had the chance.”

According to the book, Joan Mulholland grew up befriending black children, attending secret meetings to promote desegregation and eventually taking part in demonstrations. She received backlash from her mother, university and others.

“There’s got to be at least … eight stories of when my mother would say that, ‘And we thought we were going to die,’” Loki Mulholland said. “It’s hard to comprehend because it’s mom. At the same time, there’s a level of responsibility … to make sure the stories continue to be shared.”

Co-author Angela Fairwell — one of Loki Mulholland's childhood friends — helped Mulholland organize and write the children's version of "She Stood for Freedom."

“It was a collaborative effort,” Loki Mulholland said. “I asked her to make a first draft on what she felt was (important) … so she wrote the first draft, and I came in and added the flavoring to it.”

The two decided to do a children’s book so it could make a greater impact on children and encourage them to take fight for what is right.

“I wanted to create something that was approachable with children beyond just a documentary,” Mulholland said. “Kids seemed to really like the documentary, which surprised me. I think they see themselves in it because we start off the story when she was a little girl. The book makes (the story) more digestible.”

Loki Mulholland said the two working together was another way of standing up for what Joan Mulholland believed in. Fairwell is an African-American woman and Mulholland is a white male. Mulholland said this fights the stereotypes of both gender and races working together.

According to Loki Mulholland, Joan Mulholland raised her children to follow the golden rule, “Do unto others as they would do unto you,” and to know the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. As a child, Loki Mulholland remembers befriending refugees from the Vietnam War who were ridiculed by many, including his fellow peers.

“We just wanted friends. That was kind of our mentality,” Loki Mulholland said. “I got roughed up a few times for escorting my Asian friends home by my white friends … for protecting my Asian friends.”

Even though it was against his mother’s rules to bring friends over before she was home, Mulholland would bring his refugee friends to his house for safety until the bullies went away

“She was always fine with it because we were doing the right thing,” Mulholland said about his mother. “Sometimes, even though you’re breaking the rules … the spirit (of the law) is a different thing, which is an echo of the civil rights movement.″

From his mother’s story, Mulholland wants others — especially children — to learn to have the courage to stand up for what is right, even if it’s through small steps.

“It doesn’t matter how old or how young you are. Anyone can make a difference. You don’t need to be a Dr. King, you don’t need to be a Rosa Parks, you just need to be you. There are plenty of problems that need solutions, and everyone can contribute — especially children,” said Mulholland. “Kids can do something. It’s a big adult world, but don’t try to change the world, just change your world, whatever that might be. It could be at your school, it could be at our block, whatever, it doesn’t matter. It’s your choice. My mother’s world was the South.”

All net proceeds from the book go toward the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation that works to promote the principles exhibited by Joan Mulholland and provides scholarships for students and teachers. Charlotta Janssen, who was an admirer of Trumpauer Mulholland, created art for the books.

Email: cstimpson@deseretnews.com


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