Examines why school desegregation, despite its success in closing the achievement gap, was never embraced wholeheartedly in the black community as a remedy for racial inequality
In 2007, a court case originally filed in Louisville, Kentucky, was argued before the Supreme Court and officially ended the era of school desegregation— both changing how schools across America handle race and undermining the most important civil rights cases of the last century. Of course, this wasn’t the first federal lawsuit to challenge school desegregation. But it was the first—and only—one brought by African Americans. In Divided We Fail, journalist Sarah Garland deftly and sensitively tells the stories of the families and individuals who fought for and against desegregation. By reframing how we commonly understand race, education, and the history of desegregation, this timely and deeply relevant book will be an important contribution to the continued struggle toward true racial equality.
About the Author
Sarah Garland is a staff writer at the Hechinger Report. She has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, American Prospect, New York Sun, Newsweek, Washington Monthly, Newsday, New York, and Marie Claire, among other publications. She was a 2009 recipient of the Spencer Fellowship in Education Reporting at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Garland now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
“Divided We Fail is, quite simply, an extraordinary book. Garland grapples with divisive social and educational issues, puts them into historical perspective, and shows a path out of our current confusion.”
—Diane Ravitch, former U.S. assistant secretary of education, historian, and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System
"With all the noise about failing schools, standardized tests, teacher accountability, and America’s educational decline, only the courageous are willing to acknowledge the persistence of racism—let alone, address the problem in a serious, clear-eyed way. Sarah Garland has written a courageous book, documenting the struggles of courageous community activists, educators, parents, and children who continued to fight for equity and racial justice long after our nation declared victory over segregation. In telling this gripping, often tragic, often inspirational story, Garland reveals that integrating a classroom is not the same as dismantling racism. Divided We Fail is one of those rare books that will move even the most cynical to act. And act we must."
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
“Sarah Garland has brilliantly and humanely filled in a missing piece of America’s civil rights narrative. Divided We Fail is a story about the beloved institutions black Americans made for themselves—in this case, a formerly segregated high school in Louisville—and their fight to preserve and protect them. Garland renders this saga with a deep, compassionate knowledge of her own home city and equal empathy for all the partisans in a bitter legal battle.”
—Samuel G. Freedman, author of Letters to a Young Journalist
"A nuanced and thoroughly researched look at the complicated history of school desegregation in the United States."
"A useful journalistic examination of a troubling societal phenomenon."
"A compelling look at the complexities of race and class in the continued struggle for racial parity and high-quality education.”