As Fast As Words Could Fly

Young Mason Steele takes pride in turning his father’s excited ramblings about the latest civil rights incidents into handwritten business letters. One day Pa comes home with a gift from his civil rights group: a typewriter. Thrilled with the present, Mason spends all his spare time teaching himself to type. Soon he knows where every letter on the keyboard is located. When the civil rights group wins a school desegregation case, Mason learns that now he will be attending a formerly all-white high school. Despite his fears and injustice from the students and faculty, Mason perseveres. He does well in school—especially in his typing class. And when he competes in the county typing tournament, Mason decides to take a stand, using his skills to triumph over prejudice and break racial barriers.

Themes in this story

History, Civil Rights, Discrimination, Overcoming Obstacles, Heroism, Conflict-resolution


  • In 1954, the US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education that “racial segregation” of students in public schools was “unconstitutional”. Discuss “racial segregation”. Does segregation exist today? Give examples of how humans may be segregated by color, ethnicity, gender, and/or religion.
  • Ten years after school systems around the country were ordered to desegregate, there were still areas of the country that had not made changes. It took the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to strengthen enforcement and enable the progress of desegregation. Discuss “civil rights”. Give an example of discrimination and describe how you would feel if you were treated poorly.
  • Patrick and Daniel were friendly to Mason and his brothers when they were picking tobacco in the summer.
  • When Mason and his brothers got on the school bus to Belvoir High, though, Patrick and Daniel ignored them. Why do you think they behaved this way? Have you ever experienced something similar? What happened? How did you react?
  • Mason was the fastest typist in his class and was selected to represent the school in a typing tournament. Mason was hesitant to accept, but then he heard Pa’s words, “Somebody’s got to make a change.” Explain what this phrase means to you. Why do you think it inspired Mason?
  • When Mason was announced as the winner of the typing contest, no one cheered. Why did the audience respond that way? Would you have cheered? Why or why not?
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