Stony the Road Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
9, 10, 11, 12
African American
Civil Rights
Social Justice
by Henry Louis Gates, Jr - A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this novel. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build understanding of history and our role in it, as well as explore the idea of social justice and what it means in the current world we are living in.

The abolition of slavery in the aftermath of the Civil War is a familiar story, as is the civil rights revolution that transformed the nation after World War II. But the century in between remains a mystery to many: If emancipation sparked “a new birth of freedom” in Lincoln’s America, why was it necessary to march in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s America? In this literature guide for Stony the Road, you will seek answers to this question and finally self-evaluate what you can do to improve fairness, equality, and social justice in this country through your actions.

Literature Guide by Anthony Salciccioli

Discussion Questions 

  1. What was the message of the Emancipation Proclamation and under what conditions was it made?  
  2. What is the main action of the Civil War Amendments (13th-15th), and how are they related to the Emancipation Proclamation?  
  3. What do you know about the years in United States History from 1865-1877, known as Reconstruction? 
  4. What do you know about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the 1950’s-1970’s?  
  5. Our present state of affairs has historical antecedents (historical events that led to it). Understanding these antecedents is essential to accurately assess present matters. This book outlines some of the paths that led to today's social justice issues.  What is the state of race relations in the United States today?  
  6. After the Reconstruction Era (1861-1873) there was a time known as “The Redemption.” What tactics were used during "the Redemption" in an attempt to roll back the gains made by African Americans after the Civil War?  
  7. What parallels does the author draw between our present political situation and the era of Reconstruction and Redemption?
  8. What was ruled in the Supreme Court Case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)? What made this ruling significant in the story of race relations in the United States?  
  9. What was Plantation Literature? What themes were contained in it, and what influence did it have on White America?   
  10. What was the film “The Birth of a Nation” by D.W. Griffiths about and what influence did it have in American culture?  
  11. What was “Sambo Art”? What themes and ideas did it promote, and what were some examples of it?  
  12. What is reason that lynching happened as frequently as it did?  
  13. Who were the leaders of the "New Negro" movement and what did they espouse?  
  14. What African American organizations emerged, and what did they accomplish?
  15. How do modern Civil Rights Movements compare to the prior movements featured in the book?  
  16. How much progress has been made in the United States from Reconstruction to now in regards to Civil Rights and race relations?  
  17. You’ll notice that when cultural shifts occur, it is due to mass consensus of the people and the decisions of political leaders. What can be done today to move collective consensus and political decisions to foster a better and more equitable world?  
  18. What progress is required in the United States in order to make this a nation where there is full equality?
  19. What can you do personally to improve matters in this nation? 


  1. Watch this video of Professor Gates speaking to high school students at Pace University. Discuss what inspires you.
  2. Watch the movie Just Mercy about the injustice in the southern legal system that puts blacks in jail without evidence or a fair trial. The story shows how fear along with police and prison systems suppress black people.
  3. Contact local social justice nonprofits to ask what the needs are and determine one small thing you can do. 
  4. Learn from reputable sources about voter suppression and what can be done to stop it. 
  5. Visit Learning to Give to learn about Civil Rights Leaders and how to create a more civil society:  Civil Rights Leaders lesson and Attributes of Civil Society lesson
  6. Take action that improves matters in your community. Philanthropy project