From Publishers Weekly
Minister and novelist Stephen Kendrick (Night Watch
) collaborates with his college student son, Paul, to recount the story of Sarah Roberts, who, in 1848, at five years old, became a symbol of the plight of free blacks "forced to persevere in unjust circumstances." Because Sarah had to walk past five white-only schools to reach her school, Sarah's father, aided by African-American attorney Robert Morris, sued the city in a case whose ultimate decision established the concept of "separate but equal." The Kendricks not only tell Sarah's story but also offer a chronology of Boston's black activism, including portraits of David Walker, a Southern-born thrift store owner whose Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World
galvanized blacks as Thomas Paine's Common Sense
had roused white patriots, and William Nell, a former errand boy for abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who became one of the great leaders of the fight for school equality. Most notably, the authors unearth considerable information about Robert Morris, the attorney who represented Sarah Roberts, whose name has been left out or listed incorrectly in many accounts of the court case. The authors handle the weighty issue of desegregation with skill; this is a book for historians and humanitarians.
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One hundred three years before Brown
v. Board of Education
was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, a black father in Boston challenged the policy of segregated education that forced his five-year-old daughter to walk past white schools to attend a poorly equipped black school. The Kendricks offer a thoroughly well researched and absorbing look at the social forces that culminated in the first legal challenge to segregated education, including the tense social debate within the Boston black community on the merits of segregation versus integration. Amidst growing social foment for abolition and equal rights, the Kendricks highlight the work of black attorney Robert Morris, activist William Cooper, and other black citizens, whose contributions have been obscured by luminaries such as William Lloyd Garrison and Charles Sumner. Readers interested in how contemporary issues of integration have evolved and the important roles played by ordinary people in making historic changes will enjoy this compelling account of the antebellum struggle for equal rights in the North. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved