Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chris Bonastia's Southern Stalemate

Southern Stalemate: Five Years Without Public Education in Prince Edward County, Virginia, by Chris Bonastia (Lehman College, CUNY--sociology), was released by the University of Chicago Press this month.  Bonastia is the author of Knocking on the Door: The Federal Government’s Attempt to Desegregate the Suburbsan important book on housing policy, a vital but under-researched area. His new book, Southern Stalemate, covers one of the single most important incidents in American education during the civil rights era.

Here is the publisher's description of the book.

In 1959, Virginia’s Prince Edward County closed its public schools rather than obey a court order to desegregate. For five years, black children were left to fend for themselves while the courts decided if the county could continue to deny its citizens public education. Investigating this remarkable and nearly forgotten story of local, state, and federal political confrontation, Christopher Bonastia recounts the test of wills that pitted resolute African Americans against equally steadfast white segregationists in a battle over the future of public education in America.
 Beginning in 1951 when black high school students protested unequal facilities and continuing through the return of whites to public schools in the 1970s and 1980s, Bonastia describes the struggle over education during the civil rights era and the human suffering that came with it, as well as the inspiring determination of black residents to see justice served. Artfully exploring the lessons of the Prince Edward saga, Southern Stalemate unearths new insights about the evolution of modern conservatism and the politics of race in America.
 Also see these endorsements:

“What happened in Prince Edward County in the late 1950s and early 1960s was nothing less than an American tragedy. Yet it’s long lingered on the margins of civil rights history, a footnote to the standard story of struggle and triumph. With Christopher Bonastia’s careful, enlightening, and sympathetic new study, it finally has the book it deserves.”—Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age
“A fine book that captures the intensity of the struggle among the white segregationists, the NAACP, and the black community during the years of the school closing, Southern Stalemate sheds new light on the civil rights movement and this important case. It represents an important step in the quest to better understand race, social movement, and legal scholarship.”—Aldon Morris, Northwestern University
“In this absorbing and meticulously researched narrative, Christopher Bonastia brings us into a forgotten yet vitally important moment in the civil rights movement, when a Virginia county abandoned its public schools rather than integrate them. Southern Stalemate is a grand addition to the literature on the civil rights struggle.”—Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America