The Rock and the River Discussion Questions

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

These discussion questions will help you guide middle school students through the characters, plot, and themes of 'The Rock and the River,' author Kekla Magoon's debut novel. This book is centered around the Civil Rights Movement.

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

The Rock and the River is an intriguing exploration of the Black Panther Party through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Sam, living in Chicago during the Civil Rights Movement. These discussion questions will help you guide your students as they explore the themes of civil rights and change, as well as the characters and plot of the novel. You can use these questions for a whole-class discussion or assign them to student teams. You may also want to consider allowing students to choose one or more questions to write a written response. This exercise can serve as an excellent summative assessment.

  • Note: These questions are intended to be used after students have read the novel.

Questions about Characters

  • Roland and Dr. King are close friends. How does Roland help Dr. King achieve his goals of progress in advancing civil rights?
  • Stick and Roland are at odds because of their differing philosophies related to the way to accomplish civil rights action. What do Stick and his father have in common?
  • Sam decides to get involved in the Black Panther's community action initiatives. Why does he decide to follow in his brother's footsteps instead of his father's?
  • How does Sam change from the beginning of the novel to the end? What events bring about these changes?
  • What is the primary concern of Sam and Stick's mom, Marjorie Childs? What is her role in the civil rights actions of her husband and sons?
  • Although they are all a part of the Black Panther movement, each of these characters has a unique viewpoint and role. Describe the similarities and differences in how each of these characters carries out their beliefs about civil rights action: Stick, Bucky, Maxie, Raheem, Leroy, Lester, Sam

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