This Promise of Change: One Girl's Story in the Fight for School Equality

In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated schools violated the U.S. Constitution. This decision, Brown v. Board of Education, was a big deal–but Supreme Court rulings do not enforce themselves. If Brown‘s promise of change was to become reality, people had to take action.

And so, in the small town of Clinton, Tennessee, twelve African American high school students stepped up. You probably haven’t heard of the Clinton 12–but what they did in 1956 (a year before the Little Rock 9, four years before Ruby Bridges) was front-page news all over the nation. My co-author, Jo Ann Allen Boyce, was one of the Clinton 12, and we have worked together to tell her story. Like my book The Year of Goodbyes, this is nonfiction in verse, with primary archival materials and additional backmatter features.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Ages 10 and up
ISBN 978-1-68119-852-1

Buy the book:
IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


* 2019 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction *

* 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Honor *

Horn Book Fanfare List 2019

Kirkus Best Books of 2019

New York Public Library Best Books of 2019 (top 10 children’s books)

A 2020 Bank Street College Best Children’s Book (starred, for outstanding merit)

Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books 2019

Evanston Public Library’s The 101 Best Books for Kids (2019 edition)

2019 Nerdy Book Award for Poetry and Novels in Verse

A Mighty Girl 2019 Book of the Year

NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People

* “Powerful storytelling of a not-so-distant past.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

* “This story adeptly shows readers that, like the Clinton Twelve, they too can be part of something greater than themselves. A must-buy for tweens and teens. . . .”
School Library Journal (starred review)

* “This moving and timely memoir should have a place in all libraries that serve young adults.”
School Library Connection (starred review)

* “[R]eaders will appreciate that [Jo Ann] did make a difference by standing up for her beliefs with resolve and persistence, attributes that shine through in this lyrical yet hard-hitting account of a pivotal chapter in the history of desegregation.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

* “Sure to mobilize youth to action and change, this book is necessary for all library collections that serve youth.”
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) (starred review)

“Engrossing, informative, and important for middle-grade collections.”

“Accessible text and fast-paced narration make this a strong recommendation for ‘One School, One Book’ middle-school reading.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

A Junior Library Guild Selection


“See It Now: Clinton and the Law”
Watch this episode of Edward R. Murrow’s renowned television news show, “See It Now,” broadcast on CBS in January 1957, about the then-still-unfolding desegregation crisis in Clinton, Tennessee. This Promise of Change co-author Jo Ann Allen Boyce (a teenager at the time) speaks to reporters starting around 10:45 minutes.

Cameron Boyce Honors The Clinton 12
In this brief video, actor Cameron Boyce and his sister Maya honor their grandmother, Jo Ann Allen Boyce–co-author of This Promise of Change–by talking about what she and the Clinton 12 did, and what it means to them today.


Documentary: “The Clinton 12”
This is the trailer for the 2007 documentary film about the Clinton 12 directed by Keith McDaniel, narrated by James Earl Jones.


National Education Association, “The Clinton 12”
The NEA produced this short film  about the Clinton 12 in 2014.


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