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The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial
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The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  542 ratings  ·  180 reviews
In 1847, a young African American girl named Sarah Roberts was attending a school in Boston. Then one day she was told she could never come back. She didn't belong. The Otis School was for white children only.

Sarah deserved an equal education, and the Roberts family fought for change. They made history. Roberts v. City of Boston was the first case challenging our legal sys
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
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I am guessing this will win awards or honors at least in the 2017 ALA awards. This is the way nonfiction should be written: clear, informative, direct, beautiful! The after matter is as important, especially a wonderful timeline that shows steps forward and backward for equality. Goodman makes the point that even steps that end in defeat can still lead to progress eventually. She also managed to interview a living relative of the little girl who prompted this first case, Sarah Roberts. The autho ...more
Cindy Newton
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read for my grad school class. This is an excellent story about a child's fight for equality. When I thought of segregation cases, I always thought of Brown vs. The Board of Education. I never realized that there were other cases! The illustrations are great, especially the page where the pictures are in the shapes of footprints and follow the "one step forward, three steps back" format. Each of the "three steps back" footprints portrays a dark moment in civil rights history. ...more
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
First reviewed on Literaritea

Rather than looking at school segregation through the lens of Brown v. Board of Education, Goodman takes readers back 100 years to the 1840s when a young African American Bostonian named Sarah bravely went to an all-white school. When Sarah was kicked out, her parents hired one of the first African American lawyers to plead their case. He ended up working closely with a white lawyer, and the two together presented Sarah’s case to a packed courtroom. They lost.

May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the story of a little known 1849 school desegregation case. 100 years before Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, a young girl of color, Sarah Roberts, was sent to the all white school rather than the run-down school for "coloreds" far from their own neighborhood. Sarah's parents chose to challenge school segregation using civil disobedience, much in the same way Rosa Parks did 100 years later. The author then summarizes what happened next after the case, jumping ahead to Linda Br ...more
Maggie Mattmiller
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Another major person/event I learn about through a picture book! What a great story, with beautiful illustrations! Definitely a must have for classrooms! We focus so much on MLK in schools, and definitely hit on Rosa Parks, but unfortunately, a lot of black history (and American history) slows down there. This is one that should definitely be shared in classrooms so kids grow up knowing there is more to the story! There are more heroes to be celebrated!
Michele Knott
Wonderful narrative informational text. How often we learn about Brown vs. Board of Education, but that wasn't the first time school integration was brought before the courts.
Great author back matter.
And illustrated by the amazing E. B. Lewis.
Edward Sullivan
The inspiring, little-known story of Roberts v. City of Boston, the first case challenging the U.S. legal system to outlaw segregated schools in the mid-19th century. Exceptional, as always, illustrations by E.B. Lewis.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nonfiction #3

Goodman, Susan E. (2016). The first step: How one girl put segregation on trial. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Possible crossover subject: History

Fiction Twin Text:

Meyer, Susan. (2015). New Shoes. New York, NY: Holiday House Publishing.

New Shoes is about a young African American girl who goes to the shoe store with her mother to pick out a new pair of shoes. They are the first to arrive, but shortly after they walk in, a white girl and her father walk into the store. The
Emma Lallman
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Book 4: The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman and All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Goodman, S. E., & Lewis, E. B. (2016). The First Step. New York: Bloomsbury.
Penfold, A., & Kaufman, S. (2019). All are welcome. London: Bloomsbury Children's Books.

I decided to pair these two books together because I think they would be perfect for a social studies lesson on the Civil Rights Movement. I think that this kind of topic can be a little bit difficult for younger
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
This picture book biography tells the story of Sarah Roberts. Sarah was attending school in Boston in 1847 when she was told that she would have to stop. Instead she would be required to attend the school for African American children across town where there were fewer books and the subjects were not as robust. Sarah’s parents decided not to accept this decision and instead decided to fight for change in the courts. Two lawyers agreed to take Sarah’s case, Robert Morris the second African-Americ ...more
Sandy Brehl
Written by Susan E. Goodman and illustrated by E. B. Lewis, the story of equal-education-seeking young Sarah Roberts couldn't be in better hands. Many young readers have come to know Ruby Bridges and her solitary studies during the civil rights school integration enforcement in the 1960's. The little-known case of Sarah Roberts, though, set the groundwork for establishing desegregation through the courts those many years later.

Back in 1847, four-year-old Sarah was escorted out of her all-white
Christine Kim
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
"The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial" by Susan E. Goodman is a fantastic informational text/ biography picture book that describes how Sarah Roberts, a young African American student, influenced the fight for unsegregated, equal education in Boston, Massachusetts. Sarah was kicked out of her neighborhood school because it was exclusively for white students. Her parents were angry and took her case to court with the help of lawyers Charles Sumner and Robert Morris. This book hig ...more
Emma Hughes
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The First Step" is an informational text about two girls and their families and communities who fought for their right to an equal education. Sarah Roberts and Linda Brown were both young girls when they had the horrible reality of segregation thrust on them. This book talks about their journey to change the unfair, unjust policy of school segregation. It details the legal process and the ups and downs that both "agents of change" went through. The water color illustrations beautifully characte ...more
THE FIRST STEP: HOW ONE GIRL PUT SEGREGATION ON TRIAL by Susan E. Goodman tells the inspiring story of the first lawsuit focusing on segregated schools.

Set in the 1840s, this biographical picture book follows the experiences of a young African American girl named Sarah Roberts who sought to attend a white school in Boston. The book concludes by tracing Sarah’s legacy. Although she didn’t win her case, the experience did provide a few small steps forward at the beginning of the fight for civil ri
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: African American history requests
Recommended to June by:
A part of history that I was unaware of. African American descendants of a Revolutionary War soldier took on Boston's school segregation laws for their daughter. They chose Robert Morris the second African American to be a lawyer in the US to represent them. How Morris chose Charles Sumner to help argue the case. They lost, however, 5 years later Boston becomes the first major city to officially integrate its schools. Goodman also includes later history in the desegregation of American schools.

Jessica Meyers
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: info-bios
2017 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children honor book
Chicago Public LibraryKids Best of the Best Book 2016
Recommended for Grades 2-4

"The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial" takes us back to 1847, when a four-year-old African American girl named Sarah Roberts was attending Otis School in Boston. She was told that the school was meant for white children only, and she was not welcome. Her family fought for her right to an equal education. In Roberts v. City
There are so many stories that have never been told in our school history texts, stories about people who persist to have the rights that everyone else has, those they should have. This is one of them, the story of Sarah Roberts, the girl who took it to court to have the right to integrate the schools in Boston. The school where she started was all white, but very close so she was enrolled at the age of four. When a policeman chanced to visit, he threw her out. Her parents were enraged but helpl ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: info-bios
This informational text was a 2017 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children honor book. The book introduces the reader to a young African-American girl, Sarah Roberts who stood up for children everywhere by taking her case of segregated schooling to court. Although she did not win the case, it began the "first steps" toward school integration for the country. The text provides watercolor illustrations that take the reader through the historical time to understand how one c ...more
Kasey Sparks
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I would really like this book as a student. This book was so good! This book is about segregation and civil rights. This is about a girl named Sarah Roberts and equal protection under the law. I think this book is very inspirational and would be a good book for elementary students to read. If I was a student I would enjoy reading this and talking about it in a group.

If I was a teacher I think this book would be a good book to read to students and create a debate. You could ask the students ques
Ms Threlkeld
I love it when a picture book teaches me something I know nothing about! This would be an excellent way to broach the topic of equality, justice and integration with younger students.
Beth Parmer
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent account of Sarah Roberts' story. Detailed back matter enhance the book, and will be especially beneficial for those who wish to learn more, study the timeline, and explore read-alikes. ...more
Gretchen Taylor
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
Sarah's story was new to me. Informative and inspiring. The author's note would be a great mentor text, conversation piece around research ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is such an important picture book! We need more representation and stories like this!
Sunah Chung
From the book cover and the title, I assumed that this book would be about a girl who protests her right against injustice. However, after reading the book, I acknowledged that the role of the girl was not emphasized as the title points out. Based on the texts, Sarah Roberts’s parents enrolled her to a white American children’s school which is located nearby her house. The texts describe that the girl and her parents were not surprised or frightened, but angry. It shows that the girl might under ...more
Taylor Manrique
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This story takes place in 1847, in a time where Sarah Roberts is kicked out of her elementary school because of the color of her skin. Unwilling to to let this go, Sarah's father hired a well-known lawyer, Robert Morris, to help them fight to allow Sarah to attend the all-white school. Even after a long and hard-fought battle, Sarah lost the trial, and it would take almost a decade for Boston in integrate schools. However, Sarah's fight would spark a fight that would last for another century to ...more
Carly Brown
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a beautiful story! While I have heard about Brown v. Board of Education numerous times, I had never heard about Sarah Roberts’s story. I enjoyed this book because I believe it made the issue of segregation a more personal subject. When one tries to think about how an issue impacts a large group of people, it is easier to neglect or ignore individual feelings and struggles. As this book focuses on Sarah Roberts’s story, readers can have a better understanding of the situation and how it impa ...more
Michelle Marino
I was able to pair this book, "The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trail" by Susan E. Goodman to "New Shoes" by Susan Lynn Meyer. I was able to connect these two books based on the topic of segregation. If I were to present these books in the classroom, I would use a K-W-L chart. First, I would ask my students to write down facts they knew about segregation or the Civil Rights Movement in the "K" (or know) portion of the chart. This could be a harder topic, especially with younger st ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, beautifully illustrated picture book about an incident from history with which I was unfamiliar, an 1847 desegregation lawsuit in Boston. My 6 year old and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and learning more about Sarah Roberts. My son really wished the book would have had more information on Sarah's life after the case ended.

The only discordant note for me was the one-page lightning speed fast forward from Boston desegregating in 1855 and Linda Brown in 1950, which grossly minimized
Rachel Lee
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would pair this non-fiction story by Susan E. Goodman with the fiction book called "New Shoes", by Susan Lynn Meyer. I would use the twin text theory of the "directed listening- thinking activity" during a history lesson about civil rights. I would show my students the cover of "The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial" and ask them what they think the story wouls be about. I would discuss and read the story until about half way thorugh (no page numbers) where the book mention tha ...more
Sailor Jenkins
Nov 27, 2018 rated it liked it
In the book, The First Step, Goodman introduces a young African American girl named Sarah Roberts. This book begins in Boston during the year of 1847. One day, Sarah is escorted out of her school by a policeman. Due to segregation laws, Sarah is unable to attend this school because it was only for white students. Instead, Sarah would have to attend a school for African Americans. Her parents were displeased with this, so they decided to take this case to court. However, the judges did not rule i ...more
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Susan E. Goodman is the author of more than thirty nonfiction books for children, including How Do You Burp in Space?; See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House;All in Just One Cookie, an ALA Notable Book; and On This Spot, a Washington Post Top Picture Book of the Year. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.


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