This book opens with the perfect story for young readers. Having been told one too many times "We don't serve Negroes," Joseph McNeill, a college freshman, goes to the local Woolworth's with three of his buddies and politely demands service at the lunch counter. Just so, sit-ins begin.
From this moment of inspired action, "There Comes a Time" backtracks to the arrival of the first slave ship in Jamestown, Va., in 1619. It then moves swiftly, yet amazingly thoroughly, through the politics and economics of slavery, the Founding Fathers' endorsement of it, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, World Wars I and II, and the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, which brought an end (legally, at least) to segregation in public education.
At this point, the text begins to cover history more slowly, detailing the key players, events, and strategies of the civil rights movement. It never bogs down, however; the tone is lively, frank, and engaging.
Many primarily documentary photos accompany the text. One or two are unsettlingly graphic but not gratuitously so.
Most chapters end either with well-chosen quotations from people like Frederick Douglass or Martin Luther King Jr., or with explanations of terms such as "black power." The latter offers a good example of Meltzer's fairness throughout. After explaining the connotations, pro and con, of the term, he ends quoting this key point: "Fundamentally, Black Power made blacks proud to be black, a psychological precondition for equality." The unquestioned humanity such a comment accords blacks characterizes the book at every turn, making it a must-read for young people (and their parents).
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society