Books: Non-Fiction

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

Book — Non-fiction. By Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy. 2019. 320 pages.
Told from the perspective of Jo Ann Allen, this book tells the story of twelve Black students who integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee in 1956.
Time Periods: 20th Century, Cold War: 1945 - 1960
Themes: African American, Education, Laws & Citizen Rights, Racism & Racial Identity

Promise of Change book coverDid you know that one year before the Little Rock Nine, in Clinton, Tennessee, 12 Black students desegregated their high school? Their dramatic story is told by one of the 12 students — Jo Ann Allen Boyce — in collaboration with children’s book author Debbie Levy.

In This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality, they use free verse interspersed with quotes from newspapers, white supremacist protest signs, preachers’ sermons, and other primary documents from the time.

Through the voice of Jo Ann, the reader learns of the strength of the Black community and how much is sacrificed and risked by the Black students to go to the previously all-white high school.

The white community riots, which leads to the National Guard being sent to Clinton for the month of September. The Klan also has a strong presence.

One entry from the book reads:

Wednesday September 26, When word comes the Ku Klux Klan is driving up the Hill, my father gets his gun.

We live here.

He won’t run. . . .

When word comes my dad’s in jail — my dad! And not the bombers!

His crime? There’s only one: A Black man with a gun.

Highly recommended for grades 7+. [Description from Rethinking Schools.]

ISBN: 9781681198521 | Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

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