Once again, I was fortunate enough to be able to review a book for ALAN Picks. The novel that I was given was This Promise of Change: One Girl's Story in the Fight for School Equality. This was such an important story and one that is often overlooked when talking about the fight for equal education in our country.
Jo Ann Allen was one of just 12 black students who, in August 1956, walked into Clinton High School for the first time and ended segregation in this small Tennessee town. Two years after Brown v. The Board of Education, the town of Clinton, Tennessee decided to finally follow the Supreme Court’s ruling and end segregation. While they may not have liked it, it was the law, and the people of Clinton were “good, law abiding citizens.” Jo Ann Allen and 11 other black students became some of the first students to integrate into a Southern high school. And as expected, it wasn’t always easy. Protests, verbal and physical assaults, cross burnings, and other forms of racism followed. But through it all, Jo Ann held her head high and continued to attend school as it was her moral right to do.
This Promise of Change is a beautiful novel told in verse by Jo Ann Allen herself, along with award winning children’s author Debbie Levy. It is a story that needed to be told and will give readers insight in to a part of history that is often overlooked when talking about the fight to end segregation. Jo Ann’s story is not only told in beautiful lyrical verse, but also through the newspaper headlines, articles, interviews, and speeches of those who were directly involved in the fight in this small Tennessee town. In This Promise of Change, Allen and Levy give voice to the Clinton 12 and the fight for equal education in the United States.
In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann--clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students---found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen? This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. Based on original research and interviews and featuring backmatter with archival materials and notes from the authors on the co-writing process.