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The First Step
Cover of The First Step
The First Step
How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial
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The inspiring story of four-year-old Sarah Roberts, the first African American girl to try to integrate a white school, and how her experience in 1847 set greater change in motion.Junior Library Guild...
The inspiring story of four-year-old Sarah Roberts, the first African American girl to try to integrate a white school, and how her experience in 1847 set greater change in motion.Junior Library Guild...
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  • The inspiring story of four-year-old Sarah Roberts, the first African American girl to try to integrate a white school, and how her experience in 1847 set greater change in motion.

    Junior Library Guild Selection
    2017 Orbis Pictus Honor Book
    Chicago Public LibraryKids Best of the Best Book 2016
    A Nerdy Book Club Best Nonfiction Book of 2016
    An NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book of 2017
    In 1847, a young African American girl named Sarah Roberts was attending a school in Boston. Then one day she was told she could never come back. She didn't belong. The Otis School was for white children only.
    Sarah deserved an equal education, and the Roberts family fought for change. They made history. Roberts v. City of Boston was the first case challenging our legal system to outlaw segregated schools. It was the first time an African American lawyer argued in a supreme court.
    These first steps set in motion changes that ultimately led to equality under the law in the United States. Sarah's cause was won when people—black and white—stood together and said, No more. Now, right now, it is time for change!
    With gorgeous art from award-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis, The First Step is an inspiring look at the first lawsuit to demand desegregation—long before the American Civil Rights movement, even before the Civil War.
    Backmatter includes: integration timeline, bios on key people in the book, list of resources, and author's note.

About the Author-

  • Susan E. Goodman is the author of more than thirty nonfiction books for children, including How Do You Burp in Space?; See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House;All in Just One Cookie, an ALA Notable Book; and On This Spot, a Washington Post Top Picture Book of the Year. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
    www.susangoodmanbooks.com

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 12, 2015
    Goodman (It’s a Dog’s Life) explores an 1848 case filed against the city of Boston by the father of Sarah Roberts, an African-American girl who was expelled from her elementary school because it was “only for white children.” Ably paring down the story, Goodman explains that, though the court ruled against Roberts, the case sparked a public campaign that led to the 1855 desegregation of Boston schools. Returning to the metaphor of the book’s title, Goodman reflects that this case launched a march toward justice, “a long, twisting journey. Three steps forward, one step back. One step forward, three back,” that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision a century later. Endnotes include a time line, additional details about the major figures in the story, and information about the author’s approach (“One of Sarah’s living relatives... told me how Sarah was educated while awaiting her court date”). Lewis’s (Seeds of Freedom) light-dappled acrylic and watercolor paintings balance clear portraits with faded background images, illuminating the story’s emotional and historical heft. Ages 6–9.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from January 1, 2016

    Gr 2-4-More than a century before Brown v. Board of Education, there was Roberts v. City of Boston; this beautifully illustrated picture book sheds light on this lesser-known case. Benjamin and Adeline Roberts enrolled their four-year-old in the closest neighborhood school. Sarah attended, until officials noticed and sent a police escort: in 1847, Boston mandated separate schools for African Americans. An extensive note differentiates facts from Goodman's speculation about what happened. Though Goodman covers weighty matters, such as the specifics of the trial, its unhappy outcome, and a longer view of segregation, her compelling story strives to help children identify with the unfair treatment. Before suing, Sarah's parents tried to envision their daughter's journey to the distant school, "crossing one neighborhood after another.... for a school that never taught subjects like history or drawing." Lewis's affecting gouache and watercolor paintings interpret both the solidity and fragility inherent in this story. The courthouse's classical columns and the school's brick facades contrast with the child's vulnerable posture. Sepia backgrounds suggest a historical lens. The metaphor of the "march toward justice" is accompanied by illustrations in the shape of footprints. The page with the phrase "one step forward" depicts Lincoln at Gettysburg; "three back" portrays the gun at Lincoln's head, the Ku Klux Klan, and labeled water fountains. The book concludes with the image of Linda Brown (the young girl at the center of Brown v. Board of Education) flanked by Supreme Court judges. VERDICT An important exploration of the struggle for equality and education in this country.-Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

    Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2015
    A 19th-century chapter in the ongoing struggle for school integration. When Sarah Roberts was thrown out of her all-white Boston elementary school in 1847, her parents fought back through the courts. Robert Morris, an African-American attorney, and Charles Sumner, a white attorney, joined forces to argue the case before Massachusetts judges. Those judges ruled in favor of segregated schools, but Sarah's father turned to public opinion and legislation, eventually winning the right for his daughter and all others to attend integrated neighborhood schools. Goodman goes on to briefly enumerate the difficulties that would still be faced in the long fight for equal opportunity education, culminating in the more famous case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. It's too bad that acknowledgment of Boston's 1970s-era school-integration battles is relegated to a timeline along with other dismaying post-Brown integration facts. Lewis' watercolor-and-gouache paintings portray the faces of the family, the courtroom scenes, and 19th-century Boston with delicacy and atmosphere. The concluding double-page-spread vista of a sailing ship docked near a modern skyscraper, albeit quite lovely, is out of place. Expanding the understanding of equal rights in the classroom is sadly timely, and this helps to fill in an early part of the picture. (afterword, sources and resources, author's note) (Informational picture book. 7-10)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    November 1, 2015
    Grades 1-4 Sarah Robert's walk to Otis, one of Boston's best schools, in 1847 is at first very ordinary. But her school day comes to a shocking close when police arrive and force her to leave the buildingthe Otis School is for white children only. Her parents, outraged by her treatment and the lack of good schools for black children, recruit Robert Morris, the second African American lawyer in the U.S., to represent them in court. Goodman movingly summarizes the years-long case, which the Roberts ultimately lose. Their loss, however, sparks a movement: Boston eventually integrates its schools in 1855, and nearly a century later, Brown v. Board of Education integrates schools nationwide. Lewis' expressive, old-fashioned watercolor illustrations capture the appropriately somber mood of the story, as well as the meaningful gestures and expressions of the characters. Despite its picture-book appearance, the lengthy text and more advanced vocabulary make this a better choice for middle-grade readers, but the emotional tone and moving story will likely appeal to a broad audience. A natural choice for social studies classrooms.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

  • School Library Journal An important exploration of the struggle for equality and education in this country.
  • The New York Times With Lewis's stirring watercolors that astutely capture the emotion of history, this book is an eloquent, inspiring reminder that "the march toward justice is a long, twisting journey."
  • School Library Connection An excellent and careful telling of a lesser-known landmark case in the Civil Rights movement . . . E.B. Lewis' watercolors add to the story and help readers feel the resolve and confidence of the people involved . . . would certainly add to a discussion on civil rights with older students and help them understand that there were many players in the civil rights journey and that each step was built upon the past. Highly Recommended.

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How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial
Susan E. Goodman
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