A distinguished African American attorney’s account of how growing up in the Jim Crow South impacted her later struggle to overturn desegregation laws.
Segregation was a hard fact of life for African Americans when North Carolina native Roundtree (1914-2018) was a child. Undaunted, her mother pushed her and her sisters to become “women of destiny” by pursuing their educations. The author excelled in school and was accepted to Spelman College in Atlanta. After a short stint teaching, she traveled to Washington, D.C., where she went to work for Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, who recommended her for the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Roundtree took her first stand against racism while in the military when she successfully spoke out against Army plans to segregate the WAAC. At the end of the war, she was offered a position with the Fair Employment Practices Committee in California. She had initially wanted to go to medical school, but she soon came to realize that a law degree would best serve her desire to “chang[e] the world in which I’d come of age.” Roundtree attended Howard University School of Law and then began the legal work that would lead to the eventual “shattering of Jim Crow.” In 1955, she won a major victory in the Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company case, which helped bring about the end of the separate-but-equal practices that had been at the heart of segregation laws. Her law practice thrived, but a period of ill health and “nagging restlessness” caused her to turn to her religion for solace. Later, she enrolled in the Howard University Divinity School and became one of the first ordained female ministers in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a leading light in “yet another war, a war for [abused] children.” Thoughtful and highly inspiring, this book, co-authored by McCabe, is not only a moving memoir; it is also an important contribution to the history of civil rights in America. Tayari Jones provides the foreword.
An eloquently told story that should make an impact.