Why did the students from The Freedom Writers Diary decide to call themselves The Freedom Writers? 

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Beyond the historical significance of their name choice, the Freedom Writers are metaphorically associating their diaries with the personal freedom the act of writing brought them. In many ways, the name originates in irony—it is the reading of the Diary of Anne Frank, a story of captivity, that instigates their own project of diaries. For the students, though—just like for Anne—writing is a way to escape the personal captivities they each face, whether from violence, poverty, or racism.

One diarist writes, "I want to write his story so others will know his death was not in vain." Writing becomes a way of dealing with loss and an outlet for stories that need to be told. The students use the written word to tell the stories of their families and their neighborhoods, freeing themselves from some of the hatred that had dominated their life. The freedom to do this comes from the anonymous nature of the journals. Anonymity freed them to be honest about their lives, and their honesty helped them to connect to their classmates. Students who once were warring with one another could begin to see the similarities they shared.

It would be easy to become a victim of our circumstances and continue feeling sad, scared or angry; or instead, we could choose to deal with injustice humanely and break the chains of negative thoughts and energies, and not let ourselves sink into it.

The writing, the process of letting go, did provide some literal freedom for Gruwell's students, who gained recognition for their work. Additionally, all one hundred and fifty writers graduated from high school.

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The Freedom Writers named themselves after the Freedom Riders, who were black and white college students who determined that they were going to attack segregation in the South during the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties.  They all rode together on the bus, which was illegal in the South, since public transportation of all forms was segregated, with black people being required to sit in the back of the bus and white people in the front section. They were attacked for riding together like this, and at least one person was badly injured. 

As Erin Gruwell and her class were getting started on a writing project to fight injustice, one of the students was inspired to name their group after the Freedom Riders, since it was a great play on words and both groups had the same mission.  In the student's diary, the student says,

I feel that I finally have a purpose in this class and in life. That purpose is to make a difference and stand up for a cause (154).

For this group of students, this was a meaningful and powerful name, evoking the history of civil rights and the power of the pen. 

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