From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up-Cooper has chosen the small town of Dresden, Ontario, to paint a picture of what life was like for black Canadians in the middle of the last century. One Sunday in the early 1930s, when 12-year-old Hugh Burnett and his younger brother had a hankering for ice cream, they entered a restaurant. The boys were told that they would have to eat in the kitchen. The author writes factually and objectively; however, readers will clearly empathize with the citizens, whose descendants had escaped the horrors of slavery in the U.S. only to find discrimination and racism lurking in the sleepy little towns in which they settled. The event in the restaurant sparked a lifelong crusade for Burnett, who spearheaded the formation of the National Unity Association. What began as a letter-writing campaign resulted in the passing of the "Fair Employment Practices Act." However, the battle was far from over, and Cooper discusses the discrimination and court battles that ensued and the personal toll it took on the Burnett family. A number of archival photos enhance the text. What is really a vignette of events in one small town results in a much broader view of the attitudes of an entire country. An eye-opening story.-Corrina Austin, Locke's Public School, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
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Gr. 6-9. Many Underground Railroad stories end with escape to Canada, but some blacks faced racism in their home across the border, including segregation and even Klan violence. Cooper tells the story of Dresden, a small town in Ontario, where many ex-slaves settled and faced discrimination in housing, jobs, school, and daily life until Dresden became a center of Canada's civil rights struggle in the 1950s. The focus on the small community, and on the fight to get African Canadians served in two local restaurants, is a dramatic way to bring the history up close; readers will read about a variety of individuals, including Hugh Burnett, a carpenter who was Dresden's leading black activist; his supporters in Parliament and across the country; segregationists; and the majority of Dresden whites, who did nothing. The parallels with the struggle in the U.S. will spark class discussion. Boxed insets and photos of people and documents add interest, but there are no source notes, and only a brief bibliography. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved