This Promise of Change: One Girl's Story in the Fight for School Equality

by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

A compelling, present-tense narrative combines poems in teenage Jo Ann Allen’s... read more

A compelling, present-tense narrative combines poems in teenage Jo Ann Allen’s voice with clippings from news stories and other contemporaneous documents from the 1956–57 school year, when she was one of the Clinton 12 who integrated the high school in Clinton, Tennessee. Clinton’s white leaders didn’t necessarily agree with integration but believed in upholding the law. The early days for Jo Ann and her classmates were tense but quiet, until outsiders arrived, fomenting protests and violence that racist whites in the community latched onto. The 12 Black students soon faced daily harassment; threats spilled over to the Black community in general. Soldiers arrived to keep the peace, but Jo Ann’s family and others faced difficult decisions as they weighed safety against the fight for equal education. Jo Ann’s voice in the poems is magnetic in its honesty. An afterword briefly documents what happened to each of the 12 students, and theorizes why the story of Clinton, the first school in the south to integrate, is not as famous as what happened in Little Rock the following year. A scrapbook of photographs, source information, notes on poetic forms, and authors’ notes round out this accessible, affecting work. (Age 11 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2020

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