Season of Rage: Hugh Burnett and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Overview

The last place in North America where black people and white people could not sit down together to share a cup of coffee in a restaurant was not in the Deep South. It was in the small, sleepy Ontario town of Dresden.

Dresden is the site of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Slaves who made their way north through the Underground Railroad created the thriving Dawn Settlement in Dresden before and during the Civil War. They did not find Utopia on the Canadian ...

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Season of Rage: Hugh Burnett and the Struggle for Civil Rights

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Overview

The last place in North America where black people and white people could not sit down together to share a cup of coffee in a restaurant was not in the Deep South. It was in the small, sleepy Ontario town of Dresden.

Dresden is the site of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Slaves who made their way north through the Underground Railroad created the thriving Dawn Settlement in Dresden before and during the Civil War. They did not find Utopia on the Canadian side of the border, despite their efforts.

In 1954 something extraordinary happened. The National Unity Association was a group of African Canadian citizens in Dresden who had challenged the racist attitudes of the 1950s and had forged an alliance with civil rights activists in Toronto to push the Ontario Government for changes to the law in order to outlaw discrimination.

Despite the law, some business owners continued to refuse to serve blacks. The National Unity Association worked courageously through a variety of means of protest to change attitudes.

The story of their season of rage is told in this compelling new book.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
This Canadian reviewer always felt as if her nation took the moral high ground when it came to the relationships between blacks and whites. Everyone learns about the Underground Railroad and the fact that many blacks escaped from slavery into Canada. This novel teaches the story of Hugh Burnett and his fight for equality that began in the small town of Dresden, Ontario, in a tale that opens the Canadian reader's eyes to the nation's racism and the fact that racial discrimination is not limited to American history. Cooper begins by giving the reader a time line of black history in North America, from the arrival of the first black slaves in 1619, up until 1947, when Jackie Robinson became the first black player to play on an integrated major league baseball team. He then gives a history of the town of Dresden, which became a center of Canada's civil rights struggle. During the summer of 1931, Hugh Burnett and his brother ordered ice cream at the dairy bar in downtown Dresden and were told that they would have to eat it in the kitchen. Hugh was confused and appalled by the treatment that they received, and this event inspired him to begin what would become a lifelong crusade for equality. He formed the National Unity Association in 1948 and was instrumental in the passing of the Fair Employment Practices Act in 1954. Although this story is told factually, it is quite compelling. By using the story of Hugh Burnett, Cooper makes history come alive, and the book is enhanced by the archival photos that are included. He paints an excellent picture of what life was like for blacks in Canada, and exposes the racism that lurks everywhere. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only byoccasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Tundra, 80p., Trade pb. Ages 11 to 18.
—Julie Roberts
School Library Journal
Gr 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 Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780887767005
  • Publisher: Tundra
  • Publication date: 2/28/2005
  • Pages: 80
  • Age range: 10 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

John Cooper has been a writer all his life. In addition to writing books, he is a corporate communications specialist. His interest in African-Canadian history was sparked as a twelve-year-old, when he read Black Like Me. John co-wrote and edited My Name’s Not George and wrote Shadow Running, a book for adults about Ray Lewis. In 2002, he wrote his first book for young adults, Rapid Ray: The Story of Ray Lewis. John Cooper lives in Whitby, Ontario with his wife and three children.
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