Synopses & Reviews
A new history of school desegregation in America, revealing how girls and women led the fight for interracial education
The struggle to desegregate America’s schools was a grassroots movement, and young women were its vanguard. In the late 1940s, parents began to file desegregation lawsuits with their daughters, forcing Thurgood Marshall and other civil rights lawyers to take up the issue and bring it to the Supreme Court. After the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, girls far outnumbered boys in volunteering to desegregate formerly all-white schools.
In A Girl Stands at the Door, historian Rachel Devlin tells the remarkable stories of these desegregation pioneers. She also explains why black girls were seen, and saw themselves, as responsible for the difficult work of reaching across the color line in public schools. Highlighting the extraordinary bravery of young black women, this bold revisionist account illuminates today’s ongoing struggles for equality.
"Before reading A Girl Stands at the Door I would have imagined that nothing new could be said about the struggle to desegregate schools — and I would have been wrong. Rachel Devlin has uncovered a neglected history of how parents and, importantly, children braved rejection, hostility, even assault to insist on their right to a decent education. Possibly most surprising, these courageous students were mostly girls, a finding that challenges some assumptions about risk-taking behavior. Not least, the book is a great read." Linda Gordon, author of The Second Coming of the KKK
"The decade of work Devlin put into recovering this underappreciated aspect of civil-rights history is fully on display." Booklist
"In this accomplished history of the school desegregation fight from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s, Devlin...offers a cogent overview of the legal strategies employed and delves into the stories of the African-American girls (and their families) who defied the ignominious public school systems of the Jim Crow South....Devlin's use of diverse secondary and primary sources, including her own interviews with some of the surviving women, bring fresh perspectives. This informative account of change-making is well worth reading." Publishers Weekly
"[A] groundbreaking new work of recovered history... Devlin, a Rutgers University historian, spent ten years tracking down and interviewing dozens of women who endured harassment and abuse to desegregate schools, whether or not their lawsuits prevailed...Devlin's chronicle...promises to reignite public conversation and debate about racial disparities in public education." Smithsonian
About the Author
Rachel Devlin is an associate professor of history at Rutgers University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.