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Young-adult book examines roots of civil rights movement

By From page A4 | February 05, 2014

UC Davis graduate and author Teri Kanefield will be at The Avid Reader, 617 Second St. in Davis, at 2 p.m. Sunday to launch her new book for young readers, “The Girl from the Tar Paper School.”

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, Johns led a walkout — the first public protest of its kind demanding racial equality in the United States — jump-starting 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, she 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.

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. It is recommended for readers age 10-14.

Kanefield, an appellate lawyer and children’s book writer, also is the author of “Rivka’s Way.” Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Cricket Magazine, The Iowa Review, Education Week and The American Literary Review.

Enterprise staff

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