Parents need to know that "This Promise of Change: One Girl's Story in the Fight for School Equality" is a memoir in free verse by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy. In August 1956, all-white Clinton High School in East Tennessee became one of the first public high schools in the American South to be integrated. Jo Ann Allen was one of the Clinton 12, courageous and determined African-American teens who faced months of threats, taunts and physical assaults, simply because they wanted the opportunity for an equal education. Integration of the high school would tear off Clinton's mask of being a small town where everyone seemed to get along (unless you were an African-American who didn't know your place) and lay bare its deep-seated racism. As the school year begins, violence and the threat of violence become a constant in Clinton. Mobs become so unruly that the National Guard is called in to restore order. Men and boys are attacked and beaten, and white-robed Ku Klux Klansmen arrive and set off a bomb. A compelling and elegantly written must-read addition to the stories of teen heroes of the civil rights movement.
WHAT'S THE STORY?
"This Promise of Change: One Girl's Story in the Fight for School Equality" begins in the fall of 1955, as Jo Ann Allen attends high school 20 miles from her hometown of Clinton, Tenn. The high school is whites-only and the local residents have no intention of changing that policy. But the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education has made separate schools for black and white students unconstitutional, and a judge orders that Clinton High School become integrated when the school year begins in 1956. Jo Ann, one of the 12 African-American teens who will attend the school is hopeful. "Blacks and whites in Clinton mostly get along well enough, I think. We are civilized to on another. It's not like Biloxi, down in Mississippi, where we hear that Negroes have to step off the sidewalk when the white people walk by. Imagine that." That hope seems well placed as school begins in August 1956 and Jo Ann is elected vice-president of her homeroom. But by the third day, taunting protesters appear outside the school and the crowds grow larger as the days go by. Mobs gather in the town square, and in early September the National Guard is called in to restore order. When the Guard leaves, Jo Ann wonders, "Will our neighbor's hearts be revealed?" Then the Klan arrives with a burning cross and a bomb that terrorizes Jo Ann's neighborhood. Jo Ann finds herself "surrounded by a hard shell of silence" in school and is often shoved and tripped as she makes her way to class. But amid all the hate, there are rays of hope for Jo Ann: a white classmate who befriends her, a kind teacher, a white pastor who walks with the students to school, and a local election in which all the white supremacists on the ballot are defeated. But Clinton has become a fearful place for Jo Ann and her family, particularly as Jo Ann has become a spokesman for the group, even being interviewed by journalist Edward R. Murrow on national television. Will the family stick it out or move to a more integrated city?
IS IT ANY GOOD?
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This is a powerful memoir of a hate-filled and turbulent time, seen through the eyes of a teen clinging to her belief that, in the end, people will do the right thing. "This Promise of Hope" offers readers not only a superbly written and inspiring story but also a wealth of information and resources. The back of the book includes an epilogue that updates readers on Jo Ann and the other members of the Clinton 12 and a scrapbook of archival photos lets readers put a face to both students and protesters. There's a timeline of school segregation and civil rights Landmarks, quotation sources, a selected bibliography and a list of books for further reading.
RATING AND CONTENT
Recommended for ages 10 and older
Quality: 5 out of 5
Educational value: 5 out of 5
Positive messages: 5 out of 5
Positive role models: 5 out of 5
Violence: 4 out of 5
Sex: 0 out of 5
Language: 2 out of 5
Consumerism: 0 out of 5
Authors: Jo Ann Allen Boyce, Debbie Levy
Book type: Nonfiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Publication date: January 8, 2019
Number of pages: 310
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