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The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement

Overview


  Before the Little Rock Nine, before Rosa Parks, before Martin Luther King Jr. and his March on Washington, there was Barbara Rose Johns, a teenager who used nonviolent civil disobedience to draw attention to her cause. In 1951, witnessing the unfair conditions in her racially segregated high school, Barbara Johns led a walkout—the first public protest of its kind demanding racial equality in the U.S.—jumpstarting the American civil rights movement. Ridiculed by the white superintendent and school board, ...
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Overview


  Before the Little Rock Nine, before Rosa Parks, before Martin Luther King Jr. and his March on Washington, there was Barbara Rose Johns, a teenager who used nonviolent civil disobedience to draw attention to her cause. In 1951, witnessing the unfair conditions in her racially segregated high school, Barbara Johns led a walkout—the first public protest of its kind demanding racial equality in the U.S.—jumpstarting the American civil rights movement. Ridiculed by the white superintendent and school board, local newspapers, and others, and even after a cross was burned on the school grounds, Barbara and her classmates held firm and did not give up. Her school’s case went all the way to the Supreme Court and helped end segregation as part of Brown v. Board of Education.
Barbara Johns grew up to become a librarian in the Philadelphia school system. The Girl from the Tar Paper School mixes biography with social history and is illustrated with family photos, images of the school and town, and archival documents from classmates and local and national news media. The book includes a civil rights timeline, bibliography, and index.

Praise for The Girl from the Tar Paper School
"An important glimpse into the early civil rights movement."
Kirkus Reviews

"Based largely on interviews, memoirs, and other primary source material, and liberally illustrated with photographs, this well-researched slice of civil rights history will reward readers who relish true stories of unsung heroes."
The Bulletin of The Center for Children’s Books

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/21/2013
Kanefield (Rivka’s Way) reveals Barbara Johns as an unsung civil rights pioneer in this biography for middle-grade readers. As the architect of a student strike in the segregated American south of the 1950s, Johns drew attention to the substandard school conditions she and fellow African-American classmates endured, often in classrooms with tar papered walls. “When it rained, the roofs leaked.... Some students sat under umbrellas so the ink on their papers wouldn’t run.” In piecing together this account of the courageous, outspoken Johns and the strike at Virginia’s Moton High School, the author mines several sources, including Johns’ handwritten memoir and interviews Kanefield conducted with Johns’s family and friends. Numerous archival and contemporary photos appear throughout, and sidebars cover segregation, the KKK, and other relevant topics. While Johns’ innovative, nonviolent protest against racial inequity didn’t play out as expected, it did end up a part of the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, helping bring an end to school segregation. This stirring tribute to Johns is an important addition to any student collection of civil rights books. Ages 10–14. (Jan.)
School Library Journal
★ 03/01/2014
Gr 6 Up—This is the story of a Farmville, Virginia high schooler, who, in 1953, led a student strike for a better-built school on par with the building for white students. Although she was known as a quiet, reserved student, Johns was so incensed about the terrible conditions in which she and her classmates were required to learn that she engineered the exit of the principal from her school, mocked up a call to assembly, and then led students out on strike. She contacted the NAACP, which counseled that students return to class. When they refused, the organization told Johns that it would support only movements for integration. Students then worked to get an agreement to request integration from their parents and the broader black community. Once the community aligned behind integration as the eventual goal and a lawsuit was filed, students returned to class. The suit filed on behalf of the Farmville students ended up in the Supreme Court, one of the four cases that comprised the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Beautifully and clearly written, this story of a teen who refused to be deterred in her pursuit of educational equality is matched by period photos-many of them located only after significant effort, as the Johns's home was burned-and primary source quotations. A "Civil Rights Timeline," solid end notes and source notes, and a sound index round out this excellent look at the roots and the breadth of the Civil Rights Movement.—Ann Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WA
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-02
Kanefield tells the story of Barbara Rose Johns, whose fight for equality in the schools of Farmville, Va., went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In 1950, 15-year-old Barbara Johns was a junior at the all-black Robert R. Moton High School in rural Virginia, a crowded school using temporary classrooms that were little more than tar paper shacks, more like chicken coops than classrooms, with leaky roofs and potbellied stoves that provided little heat. Farmville High School, the white school, was a modern building with up-to-date facilities. Sick of the disparity, Barbara led a strike, demanding equal facilities in the schools of her town. Her actions drew the usual response from the white community: cross-burnings, white stores denying credit to black customers and criticism for their "ill-advised" actions. Although threats caused Barbara's parents to send her to live with family in Alabama, where she graduated from high school, the Moton students' case was eventually bundled with others, including Brown v. Board of Education. In an attractive volume full of archival photographs, informative sidebars and a clearly written text, Kanefield shares an important though little-known story of the movement. A one-page summary of "The Birth of the Civil Rights Movement" and a civil rights timeline connect Barbara's story to the larger struggle; sadly, the bibliography offers no mention of the many fine volumes available for young readers who will want to know more. An important glimpse into the early civil rights movement. (author's note, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781419707964
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Pages: 56
  • Sales rank: 314,515
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 1100L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.20 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


  Teri Kanefield is a lawyer and a writer. She holds an MA in English with an emphasis in fiction writing from the University of California, Davis, and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives with her family in San Francisco, California.  
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