Review: The First Step

The First Step :: Children's Book Review mscroninblog.wordpress.com
Image Source: Bloomsbury Publishing

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial

Author: Susan E. Goodman

Illustrator: E.B. Lewis

Published in 2016 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial tells the compelling story of how a young African American girl, Sarah Roberts, began a fight for the integration of schools. In Boston in 1847, she was attending one of the best schools in the area, which was right by her home. Suddenly, she was told by law enforcement that she could no longer attend her school. Only white children could attend her school, and she had to go to a new school that was much farther away. Sarah, her father, a couple lawyers, and members of the community worked until they could take the case to the most powerful court in Massachusetts. Though the trial was not successful in integrating schools, they sparked a movement and kept fighting. This story serves as an introduction to the long, difficult fight for educational equality. The end of the book provides a timeline of the fight for equality, brief follow up biographies of a few of the main figures in the story, and the sources from which research was done for the writing of this book.

*Orbis Pictus Honor Book

Notable Quotes:

“Her case seemed to be changing things already. It was the first case asking our legal system to outlaw separate schools. It was the first time an African American lawyer argued before a supreme court. It was the first time an African American lawyer and a white lawyer teamed up to fight for justice.”

“The march toward justice is a long, twisting journey. Three steps forward, one step back. One step forward, three steps back.”

“Separating children ‘because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority… that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.’” (The First Step quotes this statement made by one of Sarah Roberts’ lawyers, Charles Sumner)

Additional Resources:

“Radio Boston” interview (audio and script) with author Susan Goodman:

http://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2017/02/24/the-first-step

History of the Roberts v. City of Boston (1849) case:

http://brownvboard.org/content/prelude-brown-1849-roberts-v-city-boston

Primary source speeches from Roberts v. City of Boston (1849) case:

http://www.blackpast.org/primary/1849-sarah-c-roberts-v-city-boston

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