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We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal Team That Dismantled Jim Crow

By Margaret Edds. University of Virginia Press, 2018. 424 pages. $29.95/hardcover or eBook; $24.95/paperback.

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Friend Margaret Edds, a journalist by profession, has done much research to lift up this story of two Black lawyers who worked for the NAACP in Virginia. Hill and Robinson are not household names, so it is valuable to have the story of their work told so well. Indeed, the case they argued fed into Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that legally desegregated public schools in the United States.

This story reminded me of Bayard Rustin and others in the Congress of Racial Equality, who in 1947 rode interstate buses to challenge state laws segregating transportation. Rosa Parks became famous for her 1955 refusal to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala. But that was eight years after Rustin’s strategically brilliant but dangerous ride. (States had varying definitions of who was white and who wasn’t and, therefore, who had to sit in the back. By riding interstate buses, Rustin and others forced attention to the issue. Unfortunately, some, including Rustin, were arrested.)

So when we think of the most famous NAACP lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, we can now remember the names of his fellow lawyers and their courage, strategy, and tenacity. It’s good to know that there is always a strategic campaign carried on by a web of community that gives rise to figures like Parks and Marshall. They don’t come out of nowhere, and We Face the Dawn is an example of how true that is.

In addition, this book includes photos, endnotes, and an index, which make it useful for research.

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