Evicted! The struggle for the right to vote

Alice Faye Duncan

Book - 2022

This critical civil rights book for middle-graders examines the little-known Tennessee's Fayette County Tent City Movement in the late 1950s and reveals what is possible when people unite and fight for the right to vote. Powerfully conveyed through interconnected stories and told through the eyes of a child, this book combines poetry, prose, and stunning illustrations to shine light on this forgotten history.

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Review by Booklist Review

Through meticulously researched historical fiction comprised of lyrical prose and free verse, Duncan documents the Tent City movement of Fayette County, Tennessee, in the early 1960s. Focusing on key individuals, she recounts how John McFerren encouraged Black residents to register to vote, resulting in many being fired from their sharecropping jobs, denied medical care and access to local goods and services, and evicted from their homes. Black landowner Shepard Towles purchased large tents and offered his land rent-free to homeless tenants in late 1960, and during the next five years national attention focused on the struggle, culminating in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Palmer's vibrantly hued acrylic paintings make effective use of patterns and textures. They feature tent city details, protest scenes, individual close-ups, and muted backgrounds that enable the text to be easily read. Some of the illustrations are based on photos by Ernest Withers, and a few of his prints are interspersed. Appended with an epilogue (noting the 2013 weakening of the Voting Rights Act), time line, resources, and bibliography, this is an important contribution to civil rights collections.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this absorbing collection of profiles--including of parents and children, farmers, students, and the ghost of a lynched Black man, Thomas Brooks--Duncan illuminates the grassroots Fayette County Tent City Movement in late-1950s Tennessee, which opposed racial terror aimed at Black voters and eventually helped lead to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As the Black residents of Fayette County take a stand and register to vote, white citizens do all they can to discourage them, denying them groceries, gas, and shelter. Duncan follows the Black activists in quietly compelling prose: about schoolteacher Minnie Jameson, "while Harpman bellowed over bowls of steamy collards and yams about Negro voting rights, Minnie would declare, 'That school board can take my job, but they cannot take my self-respect.' " Palmer's abstract spreads, rendered in surreal-colored acrylic, offer mesmerizing visual accompaniment. An empathic tribute that will resonate amid present-day conversations about voter suppression. Back matter includes a timeline and author's and illustrator's notes. Ages 9--12. (Jan.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A series of interconnected stories about real-life people illuminates the history of Tennessee's Fayette County Tent City Movement. The book opens with a preface, an illustrated dramatis personae showing a large cast of characters spanning two generations, a map of Fayette County, and a Prologue to Freedom that introduces the protagonist, James Junior. When a Black man stands trial for murder in 1958, the community is sobered to realize that they cannot serve as jurors because they aren't registered voters. Two farmers lead a voter registration and mobilization drive, and as the movement grows, the community suffers repercussions, from ethnic intimidation to consumer blacklisting to eviction. A landowning Black citizen hosts evicted families in tents, and this "Tent City" makes the national news, drawing support from Black and White civil rights advocates around the country. An intense, prolonged, and often violent struggle ensues, ultimately ushering in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which legally prohibited race-based voter discrimination. The historical account is told from the perspective of young James Junior (now a 72-year-old grandfather) and is made personal through the testimonies of individuals who were crucial to the movement, those who are remembered by the community, and those who do the remembering. The episodic narrative, which oscillates between lyrical passages and straightforward prose, is sometimes too overloaded with information considering the book's young audience. Palmer's painterly, evocative paintings effectively capture the era, are suffused with emotional honesty, and bring reverence to the heavy subject matter. Not an easy read but an important one. (epilogue, timeline, photographs, resource guide, bibliography, author's note, illustrator's note) (Nonfiction. 9-12) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.