Skip to Main Content

The Legend of Buddy Bush


Celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of Shelia P. Moses’s National Book Award finalist and Coretta Scott King Honoree, The Legend of Buddy Bush, with this new edition of a classic novel that’s more relevant than ever.

The day Uncle Goodwin “Buddy” Bush came from Harlem all the way back home to Rehobeth Road in Rich Square, North Carolina, is the day Pattie Mae Sheals’s life changes forever.

Pattie Mae adores and admires Uncle Buddy—he’s tall and handsome and he doesn’t believe in the country stuff most people believe in, like ghosts and stepping off the sidewalk to let white folks pass. But when Buddy is arrested for a crime against a white woman that he didn’t commit, Pattie Mae and her family are suddenly set to journeying on the long, hard road that leads from loss and rage to forgiveness and pride.

A Guide for Reading Groups
The Legend of Buddy Bush
by Shelia P. Moses
Discussion Questions
1. What was life like for African Americans living in the South in the 1940s? How were African Americans treated? What rights did they have? What rights were they denied? What was happening in the United States, and the world, at the time The Legend of Buddy Bush takes place? Does The Legend of Buddy Bush accurately portray the social, economic, and political climate of the United States during the 1940s? Give examples to support your answer.
2. When Pattie Mae asks Uncle Buddy why they have to sit in the balcony at the movie theater, he explains: "The same reason we had to buy our tickets in the back and eat last month's ice cream. We have to sit up here for the same reason that lady yelled at me like I was trying to hurt her." What does he mean? Explain, in your own words, the reason Pattie Mae and Uncle Buddy have to sit in the balcony. What other rules must the African American residents of Rich Square obey? Who made these rules, and why? By whom are they enforced? What are the consequences for violators? Did these same laws exist in New York and other northern states during the 1940s?
3. How has the experience of living in Harlem impacted Uncle Buddy's life in Rich Square? How did life in the North affect his views on race relations in the South? Do you think Uncle Buddy would have been accused of rape if he had not lived in the North?
4. "Sometimes I feel like the only reason I was born into this world is to wash dishes, pick cucumbers, and chop," says Pattie Mae. "Uncle Buddy said that it is all post slaves stuff that I am doing around home and on Jones Property." What does Uncle Buddy mean when he calls Pattie Mae's work "post slaves stuff"? Give examples of and describe the work done by Pattie Mae and her family. How does the legacy of slavery affect the work life of Rich Square's black citizens?
5. What role does religion play in the lives of Rich Square's African American residents? Explain the importance of the church. Give examples of how church members join together in support of Buddy Bush and the Jones family.
6. Pattie Mae dreams of living in Harlem. When Grandpa dies she finally gets her chance. "I hope it is just as beautiful as in my dreams," she says. What does Pattie Mae think Harlem will be like? Will her expectations match the reality? Why or why not? How will life in Harlem be different from life in Rich Square? What adjustments will Pattie Mae have to make as she goes from a rural environment to an urban environment? Will Pattie Mae stay in Harlem or will she eventually come back to live in Rich Square? Explain.
7. Shelia P. Moses uses a literary device called dialect to draw readers into the story. What is dialect? Give examples from the book. How would The Legend of Buddy Bush have been different if it was not written in dialect? Would it have been as effective? Explain. Give examples of different American dialects and other books you have read that use dialect.
8. Why do you think The Legend of Buddy Bush was selected as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book? Remember, the CSK Award recognizes books that offer a message of peace, nonviolent social change, brotherhood, and honor. Give examples of the ways in which The Legend of Buddy Bush fulfills these four pillars of the CSK Award.
Activities & Research
1. Create a Jones Family Tree, with images of each family member. Place Grandpa and Grandma Jones at the top, and branch out from there. (Make a list of all the family members before you begin.) Make your family tree look like an authentic Jones Family document. Think about the materials and technology available in the 1940s. Photographs, for example, were printed in black and white. People didn't have computers, either, so they used typewriters, pens, and pencils instead.
2. Study sharecropping and tenant farming. Visit the American Memory page of the Library of Congress at to learn more. In the search bar, type sharecropping + North Carolina. Look at the photographs. Describe what you see. How do the images compare to the picture created by Shelia Moses? Do they look like what you imagined? Why or why not? Select and print five to ten images that remind you of scenes and characters from The Legend of Buddy Bush. Organize the images in a photo album and label them with passages from the book.
3. Research the Great Migration. This mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North is perhaps one of greatest population shifts in our nation's history. Why did so many blacks leave the rural South to start a new life in the North? What forces (economic, social, political, agricultural, etc.) pushed African Americans out of the South and into northern cities like New York, Chicago, and Detroit? Visit In Motion: The African American Migration Experience at and click on The Second Migration (1940-1970) to learn more.
4. Examine Jim Crow laws. Once widespread, these laws limited the rights of African American citizens. Visit to learn more. Find examples of Jim Crow laws from North Carolina and other southern states. Did Jim Crow laws exist where you live? If so, what were they?
5. The Legend of Buddy Bush is a work of fiction that's based on real events. Think about the resources Shelia Moses drew upon to create this story, then write your own fictionalized account of a historic event in African American history. Research primary sources (newspaper articles, letters, photographs, drawings, artifacts, oral histories, etc.) to create a realistic story.
6. Stage a mock trial for Buddy Bush. Base your trial on details drawn from the story and your knowledge of American history. Present both sides of the case. Think about what happened from the perspective of Buddy Bush, and from the perspective of his accuser. What testimony would witnesses, including Pattie Mae, have to offer? What verdict will the jury reach?
7. Once Pattie Mae arrives in Harlem, do you think she will write home? To whom would Pattie Mae write? Would she encourage others to come north? Why or why not? How would she describe Harlem? What is new and exciting to her? What is frightening and strange? Who does she meet? How does she spend her time? What, if anything, does Pattie Mae miss about home?
This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Margaret K. McElderry Books •
Photo Credit:

Poet, author, playwright, and producer Shelia P. Moses was raised the ninth of ten children on Rehobeth Road in Rich Square, North Carolina. She is the coauthor of Dick Gregory’s memoir, Callus on My Soul, as well as the award-winning author of several books for young readers: The Legend of Buddy Bush; The Return of Buddy BushI, Dred Scott: A Fictional Slave Narrative Based on the Life and Legal Precedent of Dred Scott; and The Baptism. Shelia lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (November 12, 2013)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439131824
  • Ages: 12 - 99

Browse Related Books

"The Legend of Buddy Bush is wonderfully engaging."

– Morgan Freeman, actor director, producer

"Moses captures the hard emotions of one memorable summer that resonates with family love, humor, unbridled prejudice, and loss."

– Angela Johnson, Coretta Scott King Award and Printz Award-winning author of The First Part Last and Heaven

"No one has written a story like this since Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer!"

– Dick Gregory, activist, comedian, actor

"The Legend of Buddy Bush is a must read. I could smell the dirt as I read this wonderful novel."

– Sheila Frazier, Black Entertainment Television

"An important story and...a labor of love."

– Kirkus Reviews

"Shelia Moses, a poet and producer, as well as co-author of Dick Gregory's, A Callus on My Soul, gives the character of Pattie Mae a singular warmth and humor."

– BookPage

  • National Book Award Finalist
  • NYPL 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • ALA Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
  • PSLA Fiction List

More books from this author: Shelia P. Moses