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A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America's Schools

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  181 ratings  ·  43 reviews
A new history of school desegregation in America, revealing how girls and women led the fight for interracial education

The struggle to desegregate America's schools was a grassroots movement, and young women were its vanguard. In the late 1940s, parents began to file desegregation lawsuits with their daughters, forcing Thurgood Marshall and other civil rights lawyers to t
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Basic Books
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Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
The first week of February is in the books and I finally completed my first book for African American history month. A Girl Stands at the Door had been on my radar since last year when it was recommended to me by a member of the non fiction book club. Last year, my reading took a civil rights bent as I honored the 100th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s birth. Reading many books on the same theme became redundant so for this month I only chose a few select books. While Jackie Robinson integrated ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it
This is an interesting idea for a book and there are some interesting interviews and historic tidbits, but the narrative is problematic in several ways. First off, she skips over the big WHY. Why were girls chosen? She dismisses the obvious hypotheses in the intro without any support. She seems to think it's because girls were just better at dealing with the press? This is totally reductive and ahistorical. MLK and other male civil rights leaders were very good at dealing with the press. Two, sh ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
"A girl stands at the door, and a generation waits outside." -- NAACP attorney Charles Houston

"We didn't have dogs. We didn't have the water hoses. But the [isolation] was . . . insidious." -- Elaine Chustz Green, an integration 'firster' student of Baton Rouge High School in September 1963

Rachel Devlin's work examines the various landmark school integration occurrences (elementary / secondary / college levels) in midwestern and southern U.S. from the 30's to the 60's. More often than not the st
Rachel Devlin makes a nod to non-black Others. She mentions in her opening comments that Amerindians, hispanic, Asians all also had difficulty fighting for desegregation.

I grew up in South Texas where the American South meets the American Southwest meets the Gulf Coast. I have seen and experienced social prejudice of various kinds: women, hispanics, blacks. It is always based on In-grouping and Out-grouping practices, on Otherness barricading.

My mother remembers being among the first hispanic
Naomi Sunshine
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting book and I learned a lot but it didn't really hang together so well. That said, she added important perspectives to the desegregation fights and I really enjoyed hearing from and learning about some of the families, girls and young women at the forefront. And one quibble: she doesn't mention Constance Baker Motley, who was a pioneering NAACP lawyer and African-American woman who represented James Meredith and wrote the original complaint in Brown. I'm really scratching my head at thi ...more
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an impartial review.

Reading a book like A Girl Stands at the Door can only be described as humbling. Little girls, pre-adolescents, teens and young adults displayed a courage that far outweighed their years. Covering the time period from the 1930s through the present, Devlin manages to humanize the struggle for desegregation prior to the Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, as well as the aftermath of that decision.

There was s
Porter Broyles
I listened to this book via my public library and have to say it is a phenomenal work.

The book starts in the 1930s with Lloyd Gaines, a black man who wanted to attend the Missouri Law School. It talks about his fight to gain acceptance to the school, the accompanying attempts to negate the court ruling, and his subsequent disappearance.

The book then covers a number of other cases wherein black women tried to get accepted into various graduate/college programs. The author posits that most of the
Zoë Forbes
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book traces the story of desegregation in US schools and colleges and makes you think about why black girls and women, rather than boys and men, were the pupils and students who paved the way.
Trip Mccrossin
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an extraordinary book. I recently finished it, and my first impulse was to return to the beginning, and, having arrived again at the end of the epilogue, my impulse is to return to the beginning yet again. We should all read this book -- ALL of us -- or listen to it, or both at once, as the case may be. To do so is to enjoy a fundamentally better understanding of a crucial seam in the social and political fabric of the United States, and of those who wove it. Brown v. Board of Education ...more
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This comprehensive look at the young women involved in the battle for desegregation is well researched and important. Yet, the author doesn’t offer much of an explanation as to why it was mostly female students involved in early litigation aimed at desegregation. Admittedly, there were likely many factors involved in the why, but an overall discussion of these potential contributing factors would be welcome. A significant portion of the book focuses on the story of a white woman who served as an ...more
Kathleen Grover
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent; not only does it convey an enormous amount of information on the entire school desegregation battle, it is extremely well written and very readable. I highly recommend it. It would make an excellent addition to reading lists for high schools and colleges, and for serious book clubs.
Rachel Rooney
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2018
Historian Rachel Devlin tells the story of the many girls and women who were on the front lines of school desegregation. I particularly liked the section on Lucile Bluford. I think it was ultimately just more information than I wanted, which is more of a reflection on me and my attention span than the book itself.
Denise Kruse
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
While the subject matter is important, the book was so very dry. Even if I had chosen to read a textbook (and I didn't wish this to be) this telling did not engage me. ...more
Gabbi Levy
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I deeply enjoyed this moving account of the unsung work that these women and girls did to literally open the doors of schools in the face of ugly, insidious racism and two hundred years of institutionalized discrimination. We know Thurgood Marshall, but history has forgotten Ada Sipuel, Lucile Bluford, the Jennings sisters, Margurite Carr, Leona Tate and so many others. They deserve to be celebrated and remembered. My interview with Rachel Devlin:

BROWN V. BOARD OF Education of Topeka, the landma
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazingly well researched and for a non fiction book. It was uplifting and upsetting. Please read this
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this a compelling contribution to the history of the mid-20th century desegregation of public schools in America - a history I lived through but not with this comprehension nor sense of intimacy. Devlin spends the first two-thirds of the story fairly methodically developing the sequence of actions taken and individuals involved building towards the famous Brown vs. The Board of Education desegregation decision - individuals who were, for the most part, new to me - Lucile Bluford, Ada Lou ...more
Abby Suzanne
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was SO excited to read A Girl Stands at the Door, by Rachel Devlin. I think my high hopes influenced my read of this book, and I don't know if there was a way for it to meet my expectations. To be clear: I really enjoyed this book! I learned a lot, I appreciated the sort of historical structure, and I think the length was just about perfect. I wish, though, the book included more of the stories from the women who were the pioneers of desegregation themselves. In the epilogue, Devlin discussed ...more
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
While the answer to the thesis question of “why were mostly girls involved in school desegregation?” is fairly obvious and comes early, and may be a bit too simple, this is a valuable look at that history. The background of desegregation in education all the way back to the 30s is very interesting, and the personal details of the women and girls who so often did the nitty-gritty work of testifying in courts, talking to the press, and entering and persevering in white schools. So much attention a ...more
AK Wintzer
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book reviewed the integration of blacks into white schools from the perspective of the children, who are now grown. Those who were portrayed & interviewed, unsurprisingly, are mostly successful professionals who hold prominent, high profile, positions. Many were ground breakers at the young age of eight, & in mostly Southern towns. They endured taunting, jeering, & psychological abuse from other students, teachers & even parents of classmates. In some cases they were the only person in thei ...more
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: b-p
This book was an incredibly well-researched and written combination of all of my favorite topics, so I never doubted that I would thoroughly enjoy reading it and learn much from it. An inspiration view at the dozens of young women who led the way for the school desegregation movement, and sobering to think of the numbers of girls whose stories haven’t been told yet. From the 1930s to late 1960s, this book allows readers to see biographic (and autobiographic) snapshots of the young women who dese ...more
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been looking for a book like this for a while. One that would go into detail on the tactics and trials of the civil rights era, so that I might study it and hopefully apply it to my advocacy for the neurodiverse. This book did not disappoint. It is a remarkable tale of resilience and the challenges one will face from all sides when trying to change society. These girls and women were truly inspirational and accomplished a miracle far earlier than many ever thought possible. ...more
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well worth reading, but at times difficult to absorb — all the venom and hatred directed at those young people (often very young girls and women) — “the firsts” who endured isolation and threats to desegregate schools and colleges. And now here we are today with judicial nominees hedging their responses to the importance of Brown vs Board of Education. It boggles the mind. Have we learned nothing?
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This perspective of how school integration activism became "women's work" was fascinating, and I'm pleased to have more knowledge of the history around it. I found the author's emphasis on civility as crucial to progress to be challenging to read at present, but the book was very good even if I disagree with some of the interpretations. ...more
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We learn about history, but it is another thing altogether to learn from the people who actually experienced it. This book details what it was like for African-American students to desegregate schools. This is something a history class can't teach you. ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics-policy
This was even better than I anticipated. I really appreciated the attention to early desegregation efforts, and to the various strategies considered by the NAACP. The girls and women shine and the author does a wonderful job of giving them depth and feeling.
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
very informative history of desegregation and the women who shaped the course of history. If you think you know the challenges of desegregation , think agin and read this book.
Parthena Wollen
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Eye opening! The girls and women in this book inspired. Didn't get a five because of the writing. Didn't flow smoothly enough and engage enough like other historical favorites of mine. ...more
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Someone in my library book group said they were reading this book and was impressed. While I cannot remember who it was it was someone that I respected (awesome book club members), and I finally got around to reading it a few months later. Actually there was a wait to be able to get ahold of it, and I totally understand why. Reading this while we are experiencing a great divide with the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests across the nation - both peaceful and not so peace ...more
Daphne Walker
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A definite must read! So many girls/women led the charge when it came to integration in the schools! It wasn’t an accident when making the decision to put black girls on the lines to fight for integration! “There were reasons why girls were important for this fight. you need to be poised, polite, self-possessed, diplomatic and patient, while also being unyielding and determined. Girls had these qualities”.
This book is so important not only for the history of Black people, or our country but for
Craig Werner
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very good, readable, narrative of the central role played by the girls/young women who were on the front lines of the school desegregation struggles of the 20th century (mostly but not entirely in the South). Devlin argues convincingly that the "firsts" (mostly but not all female) were in more difficult positions than those who desegregated lunch counters, restaurants, etc., because they had to live out the battle long after the news media had moved on. Striking how much the students felt like t ...more
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