Sarah's Long Walk: How the Free Blacks of Boston and their Struggle for Equality Changed America

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9780807050187: Sarah's Long Walk: How the Free Blacks of Boston and their Struggle for Equality Changed America
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The never-before-told story of the African-American child who started the fight for desegregation in America's public schools

One fall day in 1848, on windswept Beacon Hill in Boston, a five-year-old girl named Sarah Roberts walked past five white schools to attend the poor and densely crowded all-black Abiel Smith School. Incensed that his daughter had been turned away at each white school, Benjamin Roberts resolved to sue the city of Boston on her behalf.

Thus began what would be a more than one-hundred-year struggle that culminated in 1954 with the unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education to desegregate America's schools. Today, few have heard of the Roberts case or of the black abolitionist printer whose love for his daughter started it all, but now, with Sarah's Long Walk, readers can learn about one black community's heroic struggle for equality.

Sarah's Long Walk recovers the stories of white and black Boston; of Beacon Hill in the nineteenth century; of twenty-four-year-old Robert Morris, the black lawyer who tried the case; and of all the people who participated in this early struggle to desegregate Boston's schools.

Stephen Kendrick and his son, Paul, have told Sarah's story—previously a mere footnote in the history books—with color and imagination, bringing out the human side of this very important struggle. Sarah's Long Walk is popular history at its best.

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About the Author:

Stephen Kendrick is the author of a novel, Night Watch, as well as Holy Clues: The Gospel According to Sherlock Holmes. He is senior minister at First and Second Church (Unitarian) in Boston. Paul Kendrick has worked as a director of the Democratic National Committee's grassroots campaign. He is a Presidential Arts Scholar at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he also serves as NAACP chapter president.

Review:

A truly outstanding account of the struggles of some extraordinary people-the 'ordinary' black citizens of pre-Civil War Boston. Supremely gifted historians in every respect, Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick have given us an exceptionally full and compelling history of the antebellum struggle for racial equality in the nation's Birthplace of Liberty." -James Brewer Stewart, author of Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery "Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick have succeeded where professional historians have failed. They not only have rescued important African American figures from historical obscurity but have brought them back to life, walking the streets and breathing the air of nineteenth-century Boston. They will make Robert Morris, William C. Nell, and Benjamin and Sarah Roberts as familiar to us as Charles Sumner. More importantly, they focus our attention on the victory African Americans achieved against segregation in the cradle of liberty and have demonstrated its relevance to us today. They have connected the past with the present-they have made the past present." -Donald Yacovone, author of Freedom's Journey: African American Voices of the Civil War "An absorbing book about the heroic and successful struggle of Boston's black community during the antebellum period to desegregate the public schools of their city. This well-written and carefully documented account of Roberts v. City of Boston is greatly enhanced by biographical studies of figures like Benjamin Roberts, Sarah's father; William Cooper Nell, the indefatigable black abolitionist; and Robert Morris, the black lawyer who pleaded the Roberts case and who finally receives the historical recognition he richly deserves." -Thomas H. O'Connor, University Historian, Boston College

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