by Adrienne Berard
Boston: Beacon Press, 2016
Balcony KF228.L86 B47 2016
A generation before Brown v. Board of Education struck down America’s separate but equal doctrine, one Chinese family and an eccentric Mississippi lawyer fought for desegregation in one of the greatest legal battles never told. On September 15, 1924, Martha Lum and her older sister Berda were barred from attending middle school in Rosedale, Mississippi. The girls were Chinese American and considered by the school to be colored; the school was for whites. This event would lead to the first US Supreme Court case to challenge the constitutionality of racial segregation in Southern public schools, an astonishing thirty years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. … By confronting the separate but equal doctrine, the Lum family fought for the right to educate Chinese Americans in the white schools of the Jim Crow South. Using their groundbreaking lawsuit as a compass, Berard depicts the complicated condition of racial otherness in rural Southern society. In a sweeping narrative that is both epic and intimate, Water Tossing Boulders evokes a time and place previously defined by black and white, a time and place that, until now, has never been viewed through the eyes of a forgotten third race. In vivid prose, the Mississippi Delta, an empire of cotton and a bastion of slavery, is reimagined to reveal the experiences of a lost immigrant community. Through extensive research in historical documents and family correspondence, Berard illuminates a vital, forgotten chapter of America’s past and uncovers the powerful journey of an oppressed people in their struggle for equality.
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