Books: “A Line in the Sand”

“A Line in the Sand: The Battle to Integrate Nantucket Public Schools, 1825-1847” by Barbara Ann White, published by Spinner Publications. From the press release:

A monumental struggle for equal rights took place on Nantucket in the 1840s. On one side were the island’s black community and their abolitionist allies joined by renowned anti-slavery advocates Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Stephen S. Foster. On the other side were prominent town citizens who wanted no part of integration.

In 1978, Barbara White, a teacher on Nantucket, found petitions sent in 1845 from Nantucket to the state’s General Court describing the injustices suffered by students confined to the island’s African School and pleading for legislation to make it possible for them to attend Nantucket’s other public schools. From the petitions, town records, court records, newspapers, and letters, Barbara White has reconstructed the story of how perseverance on the part of islanders – men and women, black and white together – overcame cruel racial prejudice.

Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex says this: “As recounted by White, the integration of the Nantucket schools is the story of not only a remarkable island community in the mid-nineteenth century, but of a nation struggling with many of the same issues of equality and race that concern us to this day.”

Beverly A. Morgan-Welch, Executive Director, Museum of African American History, Boston says: “Barbara White does justice to an important part of Nantucket’s most challenging and enlightening history. She goes beyond what is available in our history books about black Nantucketers to write this powerful story of the equal education movement. “A Line in the Sand” reveals Nantucket as a microcosm of this nation’s conflicted campaign to end slavery and provide education in schools open to all children.”

“A Line in the Sand” will be available in bookstores on August 5, 2009.

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