The Girl from the Tar Paper School

Girl from Tar Paper SchoolThe Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement
by Teri Kanefield
56 pages; ages 10 – 14
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014

There are so many excellent nonfiction books this year – and this is just one of ’em. In 1950, fifteen-year-old Barbara Rose Johns was a high school junior with a problem to solve. She and her sister and all her friends attended the high school for black students located in the next town. The school was a too-small brick building with temporary classrooms built on to accommodate the large number of students. Those “temporary” classrooms were, writes Teri Kanefield, “made of wood covered with a heavy paper coated with tar.” The kids referred to them as “chicken coops”. The problem, as Barbara Rose Johns saw it: they weren’t temporary.

The roofs leaked. They had no heat except for tiny wood stoves – and students had to wear hats and scarves to class. When Barbara told her teacher that she was “sick and tired” of the second-class school, her teacher challenged her to do something about it. But what could a kid do?

Barbara led her classmates in a strike – a peaceful boycott meant to draw attention to the appalling conditions at the school. There is a wonderful chapter in the book that details the strike, and subsequent chapters that tell about the Civil Rights movement that came on the heels of Barbara’s boycott and Brown v Board of Education. The book is rich with photos and back matter that includes authors note and a Civil Rights timeline.

Nonfiction Monday

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One thought on “The Girl from the Tar Paper School

  1. This is a wonderful book. I’m fortunate to know Teri and have spoken with her at length about writing this book and did an interview with her. It was quite a process.

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