We often speak of history as a thing with a particular size and shape, as if it were concrete, like a textbook you could grasp in your hands. But history is amorphous. With every story told, it expands and with every story forgotten it recedes.
In the popular imagination, the struggle to end racial segregation in American schooling revolves around one event—the Supreme Court’s historic 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed segregation in public schooling.
But if you’ve studied American history, you might remember the story of Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas, who, three years after Brown was decided, ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent African-American students from attending Little Rock Central High School. And even fewer people will remember the story of 12 African-American students who first integrated the all-white Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee, in 1956.
Though Clinton High was the first public high school in Tennessee to be integrated (and according to most accounts, the first public school in the South to be integrated), its story has been all but forgotten. This is even more ironic given that, in 1956, when it was occurring, the integration of Clinton High made national headlines.
But This Promise of Change is the story of Clinton High’s integration, written by one of the students who lived through it, Jo Ann Allen Boyce, and Debbie Levy. Written in a variety of verse forms and interspersed with clippings from historic newspaper articles and TV shows, This Promise of Change will grip young readers and reveal a part of the American civil rights story that has been neglected for too long. This is amust-read for Black History Month.