Contents: UU World Back Issue

Sarah's Long Walk: Ambitious first book at 21

Paul Kendrick, a twenty-one-year-old student at George Washington University, spent two years researching and writing Sarah's Long Walk, a new Beacon Press history of Boston's free black community, with his father, the Rev. Stephen Kendrick, minister of the First and Second Church in Boston.

Sarah's Long Walk dramatically portrays the struggle to desegregate Boston's schools in the 1840s. An 1848 court case on behalf of five-year-old Sarah Roberts, who had to pass five whites-only schools on her way to the black school, launched the popular movement that eventually integrated the city's schools in 1855. Roberts was represented by Robert Morris, one of the first black lawyers in the United States, and Charles Sumner, best known for surviving an assault by another senator on the floor of the U.S. Senate. While the popular movement succeeded, Roberts' lawyers lost her case in a ruling that provided the rationale for the infamous "separate but equal" doctrine which would not be overturned until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

UU World talked to Kendrick about the book.

How did you and your dad come up with the idea for this book?

We were at the National Civil Rights Museum, the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and there's a timeline of civil rights, and right at the beginning was the Roberts case in Boston. When we found ourselves living on Beacon Hill we determined to find out about the case. I took time off from college and we just learned everything we could about this community.
My dad needed my drive to tell the story and do the research, and I needed his experience with the business of making a book. [Stephen Kendrick is the author of two books about Sherlock Holmes.] He'd come back from a long day at church, and I'd drag him upstairs to read the draft I'd been writing all day. It was a fun partnership.

You're a white guy, yet you're also the president of your college's NAACP chapter. That seems unusual.

I had been involved for a long time, and people asked me to do it. I was resistant at first for obvious reasons, but I could bring people into this struggle and help people see how imperative the struggle is. So many people agree with the NAACP's goals but feel like they can't participate for cultural reasons. People just need to have some boldness and put themselves out there. We gotta stop being scared of doing this stuff.

A few of the people in the book were Unitarians.

[Charles Sumner] made me very proud. He grew up on the black side of Beacon Hill, hung out in the barbershop, and just talked to people. The way he was unafraid to engage with the black community I found always inspiring. He's the type of cat who makes me proud to be Unitarian because he just shows that we have a legacy of reaching out and being unafraid to get something done.

 Contents: UU World Back Issue
UU World : Page 58

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