Reviews for To the Mountaintop : My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement

Booklist Reviews 2012 February #1
*Starred Review* In a deeply personal memoir, Hunter-Gault traces the civil rights movement through her participation in it. She begins with an introduction recalling President Obama's inauguration, and then moves through the developments that paved the way for that auspicious event, one year at a time, beginning in 1959, her senior year of high school, through the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The unflinching first-person account combines the objectivity of a journalist with the sensitivity of a participant, resulting in a story that is illuminating and affecting. Each year is separated by facsimile newspaper stories and peppered with archival photographs. Extensive back matter includes a timeline of civil rights in America dating back to 1787; 10 contemporary articles, reproduced in their entirety; sources and further reading, including books, primary sources, and web resources; and quotation citations. This powerful complement to the civil rights canon draws a compelling line from the beginnings of the movement "to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which opened the door to the long corridor that led to the White House in January 2009." Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
One of the first students to desegregate an all-white college in the South looks at six pivotal years of the civil rights movement (1960 1965). Veteran journalist Hunter-Gault weaves her own experience into a larger history, going beyond well-known events to discuss some precursors. Period photographs and pages from the New York Times (articles appended) illustrate the gracefully written history. Reading list, timeline, websites. Ind.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #1
One of the first two students to successfully desegregate an all-white college in the South looks back at six pivotal years of the U.S. civil rights movement. Charlayne Hunter-Gault weaves her own experience integrating the University of Georgia and the first few years of her writing career into a larger history of the movement, from lunch counter sit-ins in 1960 to the Selma-to-Montgomery march and Voting Rights Act of 1965. The veteran journalist opens with a moving account of her feelings at the inauguration of Barack Obama. Then, year by year, she chronicles events of the early 1960s to tell the story of some of the thousands whose actions paved a way for his election. She goes beyond well-known events to discuss some precursors -- a 1946 ruling against segregation on interstate buses, and a 1950s South Carolina voting rights program, for example. Beginning each chapter, and occasionally throughout, are reproductions of partial pages from the New York Times; the book is also illustrated with photographs from the period. The back matter includes the complete texts of the relevant Times stories as well as a timeline. This gracefully written history affirms the importance of the struggle, the difficulties, and the efforts of so many, echoing an Obama campaign statement, "I stand on the shoulders of giants." kathleen t. isaacs

Kirkus Reviews 2011 November #1
Starting with the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009 and working back to the early 1960s, Hunter-Gault covers many of the significant moments in the civil rights movement, including her own pivotal role in desegregating the University of Georgia. It was 1961, the year Barack Obama was born, and Hunter-Gault and Hamilton "Hamp" Holmes became the first black students to enroll in the University of Georgia, confronting the racism at the core of the oldest public university in the United Sates. Hunter-Gault places their contribution in the larger context of the civil rights movement from 1960 through 1965, but she has trouble balancing her personal narrative with the many other stories she covers. Given the number of excellent volumes on the subject, this would have been a stronger contribution if Hunter-Gault had focused on her own story; as it is, the book is something of a hodge-podge. Her premise that the civil rights movement was launched in 1960 is questionable, given the many pioneers in the decades prior. Backmatter includes an extensive timeline, articles by other writers on issues of the movement and an extensive bibliography, but there is no mention of any of the excellent works on the subject available for young readers. A missed opportunity to offer something special. (Nonfiction. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
The first African American woman to write for The New Yorker describes her experiences as one of two black students to desegregate the University of Georgia in 1961. Hunter-Gault has reported for the New York Times, NPR, and CNN, but her college years were a fight from the first, with mobs of white students chanting outside her dorm every night, "Two, four, six, eight. We don't want to integrate." Her story serves as a frame to talk about the broader school desegregation movement in the South, contrasting her own journey to that of President Barack Obama, who was born the year she entered college. This very personal account (shorter than her 1992 memoir about the same period, In My Place) offers a unique witness to the events of the Civil Rights Era, as an accomplished woman looks back on her younger self, making history. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 November #1

Emotionally engaging, eye-opening, and thoroughly accessible, this historical memoir (published in association with the New York Times) illustrates how the personal becomes political by placing the author's individual battle for equal education in the context of the larger civil rights movement. Each chapter opens with front-page Times headlines, beginning with the election of President Barack Obama. Reflecting on the long journey to that historic moment, the author starts with the overturning of the "separate but equal" doctrine in 1954. In 1959, Hunter-Gault applied to the University of Georgia, seeking to open up "the lily-white system of public higher education." Eventually admitted, she endured harassment and threats: classmates threw a brick through her window, chanting "Two, four six, eight,/ We don't want to integrate." Hunter-Gault highlights key political strategies in the struggle for equal rights (lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Riders, voter registration drives); explains philosophical differences between civil rights groups like the NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC; and emphasizes the great personal risks undertaken by individuals seeking change. A time line and several Times articles are included. Equal parts educational and inspiring. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 December

Gr 9 Up--As one of two students who, on January 9, 1961, integrated the University of Georgia, the author comes across as a prescient young woman who knew what she wanted and was willing to brave life-threatening situations to get it. Alternating between her personal experiences in getting an education--a struggle from elementary school on--and the broader history of the movement, she offers a clear perspective on the Civil Rights Movement from 1959 to 1965 that is both informed and passionate. The prose is vivid and well composed, extended ably by black-and-white photographs of school integration, the Selma march, the Freedom Riders, and the March on Washington, among others. Concluding with a detailed time line running from 1787 to 2009 and with the full text of several New York Times articles covering civil-rights issues, the end matter also includes a sound bibliography, lengthy index, and quotation notes by chapter. For a slightly older audience than Ellen Levine's Freedom's Children (Putnam, 1993), this is a solid, well-written, well-researched title.--Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA

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VOYA Reviews 2012 February
As a journalist with decades of experience, Hunter-Gault is well qualified to write a history of the civil rights movement. But this book is personal, too--it is her memoir of being one of the two black students to desegregate the University of Georgia in 1961, when she and fellow student Hamilton Holmes were each just nineteen years old. The book deftly combines memoir and history, and includes many full-text articles from the New York Times's coverage of the period. The volume is well illustrated with images of those Times pages, and photos from the Associated Press and other news sources. A time line and exhaustive bibliography make this an authoritative resource, though the lack of an index could be a problem for some readers and researchers. This title may appeal to teens over other histories of the civil rights movement since Hunter-Gault emphasizes the importance of students in making this historical change. She includes stories of young people desegregating schools, marching from Selma, taking Freedom Rides, and registering poor, black Mississippi voters. She emphasizes the role of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) within the movement. She also points out the importance of young people in Barack Obama's campaign and election, linking the movement to the current day.--Anna Foote Illus. Photos. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology. 4Q 2P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.