The Girl from the Tar Paper School

The Girl from the Tar Paper School
Teri Kanefield
Abrams books for young readers, 2014

This is a delicious, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat story of Barbara Rose Johns and the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, a story almost lost to history because of the racism of the times.

In Farmville, Virginia, at the age of 15, Barbara launches in her tar paper high school a strike, demanding equal education be offered to the black population.  Secretly she talks to all the kids and enlists the help of a few adult supporters.  Once the strike is launched, at an assembly where she directs everyone what to do, she enlists the help of NAACP and others.  In the onslaught of threats and ‘damage’ done to activists’ property, she persists until NAACP files a petition with the county school board demanding ‘integration of the schools’.  The school board rejects the petition and NAACP files a lawsuit in federal court alleging that segregation was unconstitutional.  This lawsuit is one of the four filed in federal court and that come together to form the Brown v. Board of Education case.  In 1954, three years after the strike at Moton High School, the US Supreme Court renders its decision declaring segregation in schools unconstitutional.  Segregation was a long time coming to the county, however, resulting in a generation of illiterate black students.

An incredible story in its day, it helps readers understand how dangerous it was to try to institute civil rights change in earlier times in the United States.  Fascinating story that will inspire readers.

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