A Most Tolerant Little Town: The Explosive Beginning of School Desegregation

S. & S. Audio. Jun. 2023. 10 hrs. ISBN 9781797159089. $23.99. HIST
Nashville-based historian Martin (Hot, Hot Chicken) first encountered the story of Clinton High School’s 1956 desegregation while working on an oral history project in 2005. Nearly two decades later, this masterful work of collective memory will stun listeners with its recounting of a town brought nearly to its knees by prejudice and the courageous young people who demanded an equal education. Janina Edwards and Megan Tusing narrate as a perfectly paired duo, alternating chapters between the recollections of Clinton, Tennessee’s, Black and white residents. As Martin’s recounting of that troubled first school year progresses, Edwards embodies the determination, hope, and fear of the dozen Black students chosen to attend previously all-white Clinton High. Her clear resonance accentuates both their sense of purpose and their growing knowledge of what this attempt might cost them both physically and emotionally. Tusing’s narration captures the complexity of the white residents’ response to the challenging of what they considered a God-given supremacy, from the law-and-order folks to the radical segregationists who would rather burn everything down than share it with those they called inferior.
VERDICT Highly recommended for anyone wanting a moving glimpse beyond the better known stories of the civil rights era.
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