Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. “Special 2019 ALA Annual Edition.” 310 p. (Includes an “Introduction,” “Epilogue,” “Writing this book,” “Scrapbook,” “Timeline of school desegregation and civil rights landmarks,” “Quotation sources,” “Selected Bibliography,” and “Further reading.”)
This book was published January 8, 2019, but a special edition was given to attendees at the June 2019 American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Washington, D.C.
Jo Ann Allen and her friends attended a Negro high school 20 miles away from their town of Clinton, Tennessee because they weren’t allowed to attend the all-White school where they lived. Though the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that schools were to be integrated, the law of the land was not applicable in Clinton. Their restaurants, theaters and buses were segregated, and rules that applied only to Blacks continued to be applied.
In 1956, when a judge decreed the town had to integrate the high school, Jo Ann and 11 of her friends became the first Black students to attend the school. They were known as The Clinton 12. Their first few days integrating the school seemed to pass quietly until outside agitators, local protestors, and the KKK arrived. Soon controversy and attacks on the students and Black residents began, as did demands to keep the school segregated.
Racial insensitivities of the time are chronicled in this extensively researched book and very moving book as Jo Ann tells her story in verse. Readers learn about the few White supporters they had in their quest for integration, as well as the support given to them by their church as well as their families and friends. The extensive back matter lends support to Jo Ann’s story, teaching readers more about their struggle, and the struggle of many Blacks to integrate schools across the South. There is also an important reminder that many schools in the United States remain segregated today, 65 years after the Supreme Court decision of 1954.
Highly recommended for ages 18 and older.