Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

With Three Who Dared, Tom Cohen has written a book that fits into several categories. Primarily, it is a collection of three limited sketches of young men whose stories are related to one another through the book’s overarching theme: their participation in the emerging Civil Rights movement and their fight against racial discrimination. Secondarily, the work is a selective history of the early Civil Rights movement in the American South. Yet it is also a compilation of vignettes on human behavior as seen through very personal eyes. Indeed, the book presents lessons on courage and character, the value of freedom, the ennobling deeds of self-sacrifice and concern for other human beings, and the ugliness of oppression and violence.

Three Who Dared is organized into three sections, corresponding to the stories of Cohen’s three subjects. Each section is further divided into short chapters that present different aspects of the work and involvement of the three men in the Civil Rights movement as it made progress, at times slow and faltering but never insignificant, in the 1960’s. Each of the three stories is told in a third-person narrative style. Included in the book is a collection of photographs that depict some of the events described by the author. Such pictures are vivid visual reminders of the historical reality of the episodes and testify to Cohen’s skill as a narrator.

In all three biographical sketches, Cohen subtly portrays the emotional and spiritual power that the Civil Rights movement was capable of generating in the minds and hearts of volunteer workers. In fact, many of them became driven by a consuming passion to help African Americans secure equality in the Deep South. Attorney Henry M. Aronson, for example, first became acquainted with the Civil Rights movement by...

(The entire section is 749 words.)