Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? Lawrence Goldstone starts his book with the lead up to the Plessy v. Ferguson case and takes the reader through a multi-stranded history. He demonstrates how Black American life changed between 1896 and 1954, cataloguing a series of insults, atrocities, and geographic and ideological shifts with which Black Americans had to contend throughout that time period. He creates an historical chain of famous civil rights leaders, from well-known thinkers like W.E.B. Dubois, to less famous heroes, like Charles Houston, founder of Howard University Law School and Thurgood Marshall’s mentor, and shows how each of these men responded to the crises of the moment and fought to end segregation. Finally, he gives cogent summaries of landmark Supreme Court decisions that eventually built momentum for Brown vs. Board of Education.
Goldstone does an excellent job explaining how each court case led to the next. He also tells stories that will be less well known to students of the civil rights movement – about Red Summer and the treatment of soldiers returning from WWI, and about restrictive housing covenants, etc. – that will be illuminating and are relevant to conflicts in society today.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Some of the block quotes from Supreme Court rulings might be challenging for some students.
To whom would you recommend this book? Read alikes: more challenging than Phillip Hoose’s Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, but still similar; Kids on Strike by Susan Bartoletti; Dissenter on the Bench by Victoria Ortiz. Good for students who wish to learn about Constitutional law and students who are interested in the civil rights movement.
Who should buy this book? High schools, public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Non-Fiction, YA
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Rachel Chiel Katz, Schechter Boston, Newton, MA
Date of review: 3/1/2021