54 pages 1 hour read

Linda Williams Jackson

Midnight Without a Moon

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2017

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Summary and Study Guide


Midnight Without a Moon is a 2017 middle-grade historical novel written by Linda Williams Jackson and published by Clarion Books. It is the first of two novels narrated by 13-year-old Rose Lee Carter; the second, A Sky Full of Stars, was published in 2018, also by Clarion Books. Linda Williams Jackson was born and raised in a small town in the Mississippi Delta, and after living in several states, she resides once again in Mississippi. She earned her bachelor’s degree in math and computer science from the University of Alabama and began her professional career working in IT lecturing as an adjunct professor, and she now devotes her time to writing fiction. In addition to the Rose Lee Carter novels, Jackson has also published short stories in several anthology series. Her most recent novel, The Lucky Ones, set in 1967, also takes place in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement and is narrated by ambitious young student Ellis Earl Brown.

This guide refers to the first edition hardcover version of the text published in January of 2017.

Content Warning: The events of Midnight Without a Moon coincide with the murder of Emmett Till and the acquittal of the two men guilty of his murder. The novel contains depictions of and themes related to racial hatred and violence including the lynchings of adults and an adolescent, segregation, colorism, domestic violence, corporal punishment, physical abuse, emotional abuse, teen pregnancy, child abandonment, and references to enslavement. The novel includes copious racist language directed at people of color.

Note: Some of the terms in Midnight Without a Moon are no longer in use in the 21st century, having been replaced by preferred vernacular, but Black characters in the novel refer to themselves using the nouns “Negro” and “Colored,” which should not be considered disparaging or pejorative in their historical context. This guide utilizes the contemporary term “Black” to refer to Black characters, but these terms do appear replicated in their entirety in direct quotations from the text. Other terms that were meant to cause harm and used with hatred are not replicated in this guide, and quotations are adjusted accordingly by replacement with ellipses in instances where they occur amidst a line or speech in the narrative.

Plot Summary

In the summer of 1955, 13-year-old Rose Lee Carter is coming of age in the only home she has ever known, the rural fictional Mississippi Delta town of Stillwater. Rose, her younger brother Fred Lee, and their cousin Queen live with their grandparents, Ma Pearl and Papa Carter. They reside in a house provided for them by the Robinsons, a white family for whom Papa cultivates cotton and Ma Pearl performs housekeeping duties. One afternoon in July, after a tense run-in with local racist thug Ricky Turner, Rose comes home to find her mother and her mother’s husband and children at their home. They announce that the four are moving to Chicago, and Rose, who was left with her grandparents six years before, feels that she has been abandoned once again. Rose herself longs to one day move north to Chicago and pursue higher education in the form of a medical or law degree, a dream she shares with her best friend, Hallelujah.

When Levi Jackson, the 21-year-old son of a neighbor who works with the Carters, is run off the road and murdered for registering to vote, Rose begins to realize the escalation in danger for Black people living in Mississippi. The arrival of her Aunt Belle and Belle’s fiancée, Monty, both members of the NAACP, fills Rose with happiness, as Belle is one of the only members of her family who does not see Rose as inferior for having a much darker complexion than the rest of her relatives.

When a 14-year-old boy visiting his family in nearby Money, Mississippi, is kidnapped and murdered for whistling at a white woman at the convenience store she owned with her husband, grief and anger explode across the state and the nation. When the two men responsible for his murder are arrested, indicted, and placed on trial, Rose, Hallelujah, and the rest of their community wait with varying degrees of optimism, hoping and praying for a fair outcome, only to be devastated when they are acquitted by an all-white male jury.

Midnight Without a Moon spans four months from July to October of 1955 and charts the course for the personal growth Rose undergoes as she confronts issues of racism, familial loyalty, and colorism and explores the concepts of faith, autonomy, and ambition. At the end of the novel, propelled by her reflections on Emmett’s murder, Rose decides that she will remain in Mississippi, where she will meet the challenges of growing into womanhood and fighting for racial justice alongside those she loves in the place she calls home.

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