cover image There Comes a Time: The Struggle for Civil Rights

There Comes a Time: The Struggle for Civil Rights

Milton Meltzer. Random House Books for Young Readers, $18.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-375-90407-3

This impressive survey of the civil rights movement spans the Middle Passage and extends to the compromises of modern presidents. Meltzer (Langston Hughes; Lincoln in His Own Words) begins with college freshman Joseph McNeill, who in 1960 staged the first lunch-counter sit-in in Greensboro, N.C. Thus Meltzer places a human face on the commitment and determination necessary to shift centuries of discrimination. With concrete biographical examples such as these, Meltzer then makes larger points about the movement's momentum; for example he extrapolates from Rosa Parks's role in 1955 Montgomery, Ala.: ""Out of the bus boycott came something new--nonviolent resistance--that people of any color, creed, or class would find enormously helpful in bringing about social change."" Several chapters conclude with discussions of single topics, such as ""Why Direct Action,"" which excerpts Martin Luther King Jr.'s powerful ""Letter from Birmingham Jail"" and the history behind the term ""Black Power."" Meltzer, unafraid to take a stand, argues that with King's death, ""the civil rights movement, already torn by dissent within it, lost its unity of purpose,"" and further asserts that no president after Nixon ""did much to improve conditions for the disinherited."" He concludes with a look to the future and a call to action, stating, ""Democracy is not what we have: IT IS WHAT WE DO."" Ages 10-up. (Jan.)