The Freedom Writers Diary is about a teacher and 150 teens used writing to change themselves and the world around them. It is a non-fiction 1999 book written by the Freedom Writers and their teacher, Erin Gruwell. The Freedom Writers is a group of students from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California.

freedom writers

The Freedom Writers Diary was made up of journals that Erin Gruwell told her students to write in about the troubles of their past, present and future. The Freedom Writers name pays homage to the name of the 1960s civil rights group Freedom Riders.

Gruwell received the inspiration to teach them using the techniques described in the book after intercepting a racist drawing from one of her students. She assigned them to read and write about The Diary of Anne Frank and Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo.

The Freedom Writers Foundation continued with exercises and philosophies similar to those used in the original class, and track the progress of the original and continuing classes.

As an idealistic twenty-three-year-old English teacher Erin Gruwell confronted a room of “unteachable, at-risk” students. One day she intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature, and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Jewish Holocaust. So she and her students undertook a life-changing, eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding.

freedom writers2

They compared the parallels in these books to their own lives, recording their thoughts and feelings in diaries and dubbing themselves the “Freedom Writers” in homage to the civil rights activists “The Freedom Riders.”

With funds raised by a “Read-a-thon for Tolerance,” they arranged for Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who sheltered the Frank family, to visit them in California, where she declared that Erin Gruwell’s students were “the real heroes.” Their efforts have paid off spectacularly, both in terms of recognition and educationally. All 150 Freedom Writers have graduated from high school and many are now attending college.