It Takes a Village by Leonard M. Alexander

It Takes a Village: The Integration of the Hillburn School System by Leonard M. Alexander with Peter C. Alexander tells the true story of the segregated schools that were once in existence in Hillburn, New York. While many people usually think of schools being segregated by race as only existing in the south before the historic ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, there were certainly some segregated schools in communities of the north, as this book so thoroughly chronicles. In Hillburn, there were two grammar schools, one that had all of the amenities necessary for the white children, and another that was severely lacking in facilities for the black children. Through the use of maps, photographs, and letters, the authors depict what the different schools were like in this area, and how two men, Thomas Ulysses Alexander and Thurgood Marshall, did everything they could to improve the situation and truly make the education system equal for all.

While this book is not very long, Alexander includes all of the necessary information to shed light on this small village in the state of New York, depicting what it was like to live in the area when the schools still segregated children based on the color of their skin. The writing is well organized and clearly well researched, painting a full picture of Hillburn’s school system. As Alexander is a native of Hillburn, his passion for the community and its history shines through on the page, even for a topic as bleak as this. Since his father, Thomas Ulysses Alexander played such a significant role in getting the schools to desegregate; he has an important personal connection to the history explored in this book. Luckily for him, and every other citizen of Hillburn, justice was eventually served.

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