Why Dawn Was Written

Here is how the author of Dawn of Desegregation explained why she wrote the book:

In 1963, my father asked me to write the story of Briggs et al. v. Elliott et al. At the time, I had been married one year, had just returned from a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, and was enrolled in graduate school.

At that time, I didn’t have the mindset to approach the task of writing a book. In addition, I had no understanding of which details were relevant and no idea of how to put the subject matter in its proper context. I couldn’t view the subject matter from a vantage point that adequately spotlighted the importance of what had been done.

In the forties and fifties, it was impossible to envision the widespread impact that my father’s actions and persistence would have. The sixties brought sit-ins and civil rights marches, but times had changed by then and few people associated the explosion of demands for equality with the leadership of my father, or with some humble petitioners, or with the tiny town of Summerton in rural South Carolina.

Charlotte Lunch Counter Sit-in
Lunch counter sit-in (Charlotte NC ) in 1959, organized by B. B. De Laine, youngest son of J. A. De Laine

The years rolled by. My children were born. My father died. His grandchildren, all of whom attended integrated schools, finished college and earned graduate degrees. His great-grandchildren were born. All of the Briggs’ petitioners passed into eternity.

Ultimately, almost fifty years passed since that historic 1954 Brown decision by the U. S. Supreme Court declared, “Segregation is the denial of the equal protection of the laws.” Interest developed in ways to acknowledge the legal landmark and, as it did, people began to realize that the Kansas man named Brown was only an incidental player in Brown v. Board of Education.

South Carolina’s Briggs and my father were “discovered.” Books and articles proliferated, but many resulting publications perpetuated errors and misinformation about my father and about Briggs based on interviews with unreliable sources.

Some Briggs plaintiffs and family members

My brothers and I decided to set the record straight by: (a) telling the story of Briggs accurately; (b) documenting why some rural people, in an out-of-the-way place, would risk everything they had to file a lawsuit; and (c) recognizing the people who played major roles in the Briggs drama.

Around the same time, I retired. At last I had no excuses.

At last I have done what our father requested of me years ago: I have recorded for posterity an accurate account of a major event in American history. I have memorialized the heroes of that highly significant event—a small group of modest people from Clarendon County, South Carolina, who believed in the American dream strongly enough to have the courage to be makers of history.

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