The Freedom Writers Diary

The Freedom Writers Diary


Erin Gruwell

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The Freedom Writers Diary Characters

Erin Gruwell

This passionate, idealistic teacher uses her belief in equal opportunities for all to help a group of at-risk students learn to trust in themselves and work hard to achieve their own success. Her dedication to… read analysis of Erin Gruwell

The Freedom Writers

Ms. Gruwell’s 150 students are a diverse group of adolescents. Initially divided along lines of race and ethnicity, the students soon discover that they share similar experiences of discrimination, addiction, gang-related violence, and domestic… read analysis of The Freedom Writers

Anne Frank

Anne Frank became known for her diary, The Diary of Ann Frank, which recounts the two years she spent hiding with her family during World War II, from 1942 to 1944. As Jews living… read analysis of Anne Frank

Zlata Filipović

Compared to Anne Frank because of her depiction of the horrors of war, twelve-year-old Zlata writes from 1992 to 1993 about the effects of the Bosnian war on her hometown, Sarajevo. Trapped in the middle… read analysis of Zlata Filipović

Miep Gies

Miep Gies was Anne Frank’s father’s secretary before the war. She is responsible for hiding Anne Frank’s family as well as other Jews in an annex of the building where Anne’s father worked. After… read analysis of Miep Gies
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John Tu

This millionaire entrepreneur becomes the Freedom Writers’ main benefactor. Inspired by the racial diversity in Ms. Gruwell’s class, he decides to support their various projects. While he is never given voice through a… read analysis of John Tu


A disciplinary transfer in Ms. Gruwell’s first class, when she was still a student teacher, Sharaud is initially known as a tall, imposing, violence-prone student who intimidates his teachers and interrupts classroom teaching as… read analysis of Sharaud

Renee Firestone

This Holocaust survivor impresses the Freedom Writers with her courage and determination. After losing her entire family in the concentration camps, she decides to leave for the United States, arriving in the country with only… read analysis of Renee Firestone

Peter Maass

This American journalist reported on the atrocities of the Bosnian war. He shocks the Freedom Writers with his descriptions of genocide and mass rape, forcing them to confront the horrific consequences of ethnic hatred. When… read analysis of Peter Maass

Gerda Seifer

Like Anne Frank, Gerda Seifer is Jewish and is forced to hide from the Nazis during the Holocaust. Like Anne, when faced with the violent hatred of the Nazis, she soon loses her childish… read analysis of Gerda Seifer

Hanneli (“Lies”)

One of Anne Frank’s two best friends, Lies was sent to Bergen-Belsen, the same concentration camp as Anne. At the camp, she tries to send food to Anne across a barbed wire fence, risking… read analysis of Hanneli (“Lies”)

Richard Riley

United States Secretary of Education Richard Riley meets the Freedom Writers in Washington, where they are able to share their stories with him. In turn, he shares his own tales of hardship with the students… read analysis of Richard Riley

Tommy Jefferson

Ms. Gruwell compares her student Tommy to Sharaud, as both are disciplinary transfers who change dramatically during the course of their four years of high school and become committed to achieving academic success. Tommy… read analysis of Tommy Jefferson


In Diary 8, one student describes the way in which sorority life separates her from her friend Sarah. After undergoing a grueling interview in which she is interrogated and humiliated about her sexual experiences, Sarah… read analysis of Sarah


In Diary 33, during freshman year, a student writes about her friend Paco, who killed another man in front of her. At the trial for this murder, when she is supposed to testify against an… read analysis of Paco


This young Croatian boy, whom the Freedom Writers meet when Zlata comes to Long Beach, was shot at point-blank range by Serbian soldiers. He was able to come to the United States to undergo surgery… read analysis of Tony

Cheryl Best

Cheryl Best grew up in the projects, in a world filled with violence and negativity. After being kidnapped and almost killed, Cheryl decides to use this horrific experience as a motivation to escape the dangers… read analysis of Cheryl Best

John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis was a member of the original Freedom Riders activist group in the Civil Rights era. His determination to sacrifice his life in the fight for equal rights makes him a hero and… read analysis of John Lewis

Thomas Keneally

After reading about the way in which Ms. Gruwell’s diverse group of students was treated with hostility at a white, upper-class movie theater where they went to see Schindler’s List, Thomas Keneally, the… read analysis of Thomas Keneally

O. J. Simpson

In 1994, this former National Football League star was arrested and charged with the murder of his ex-wife. After a widely publicized trial, he is acquitted of all charges. One student refers to this acquittal… read analysis of O. J. Simpson
Minor Characters
One of Anne Frank’s two best friends, Jopie was able to avoid the concentration camps. While not much is said about her own experience during the war, she becomes a model to the Freedom Writers in her devotion to her friend Anne Frank.
Zlata’s best friend accompanies her to Long Beach, where she is able to meet the Freedom Writers. She reminds the student in Diary 46 about her own interracial friendship with her best friend.
Steven Spielberg
After Thomas Keneally invites Ms. Gruwell’s class to his seminar, Steven Spielberg, the famous movie director who created Schindler’s List, invites them to Universal Studios. He admires their racial and ethnic diversity but, most importantly, their unity as a class and their academic achievements.
Jeremy Strohmeyer
In 1997, this Wilson High School student became infamous for raping and murdering a seven-year-old girl in a casino, a fact that shocks the entire country and inspires the Freedom Writers to organize a peaceful march to protest this horrific crime.
Timothy McVeigh
In 1995, this American domestic terrorist bombed a building in Oklahoma in protest of the federal government. Ms. Gruwell has her students write a report about this event, aimed at teaching the students that violence is never a solution.
Josef Mengele
This doctor at the Auschwitz concentration camp became infamous for his gruesome experiments on identical twins, where he demonstrated utter lack of concern for his victims’ humanity.