Archive for March, 2020

First biography on Jack Brooks, The Meanest Man in Congress, garners national attention for important legislator

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

1588383210All this talk about the office of the President, be it how Trump is or is not fit for it or who among his Democratic challengers represents our best chance for positive change, reminds us of the strength and character of Jack Brooks, perhaps the best-suited analyst of the Oval Office in our history. A Texas Democrat, Brooks served for nearly fifty years under ten presidents, some of them among our best (John F. Kennedy), our worst (Richard Nixon), and our most complex (Lyndon B. Johnson). With the recent release of the first biography on his life, titled The Meanest Man in Congress, the late Jack Brooks has finally begun to receive the recognition he deserves for his political acumen and ability to work both sides of the aisle in pushing through important (i.e., the Civil Rights Act) legislation. Several book events have brought Brooks’s story to interested audiences, including a singular program with opening reception at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. There, moderator Henrik Hertzberg (The New Yorker) spoke with co authors Tim and Brendan McNulty about Brooks’s legacy to a packed house. The program can be viewed thanks to C-SPAN’s Book TV. In a related development, The Jack Brooks Foundation was officially launched, an organization devoted to perpetuating Brooks’s ideals and legacy. A first initiative: The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History is partnering with the foundation to digitize Brooks’s papers so that they are available to political historians and scholars in the years to come.

Inspiring story of Benjamin Sterling Turner shared in new children’s book embraced by Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Monday, March 16th, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

Neither Congresswoman Terri Sewell nor Benjamin Sterling Turner were born in Dallas County, Alabama, but both came to IMG_1175represent the 7th District of Alabama with fervor and dedication. Turner was born a slave and rose to be Alabama’s first African American representative in Congress. 140 years after Turner took office, Terri Sewell was put in charge of the 7th district, the first African American woman to do so. After the recent publication of The Slave Who Went to Congress—an illustrated children’s book detailing Turner’s early life and political career—Congresswoman Sewell visited Clark Elementary in Selma with authors Frye Gaillard and Marti Rosner and gifted students there fifty copies of the book. Sewell movingly told the schoolchildren attending her program that she “stands on the shoulders of Benjamin Sterling Turner,” who paved the way for her civil service with his bold
FrontCover choice to run for office. This incredible intersection of history reminds us of how important historymakers like Turner and Sewell are; the effects of their leadership can be felt in Dallas County today. The Slave Who Went to Congress—which the Midwest Book Review calls “a choice pick for personal, school, and library collections”—is a powerful account of an impactful life and, importantly, introduces Turner’s remarkable story of bravery and leadership to children around the world.

Overturning Brown sparks national media attention with timely critique about the discriminatory roots of “school choice”

Monday, March 2nd, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

1588384209 72As school choice sparks national conversation–from the State of the Union address, where Trump derided ‘failing government schools’ and touted legislation that would divert up to five billion dollars in federal funding to private schools, to the Democratic debate stage in South Carolina–Steve Suitts’s incisive, timely analysis, Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement, is already gathering well-deserved attention and praise. Booklist called it “a masterful, highly readable account of an American tragedy,” and Publishers Weekly said: “Suitts presents a damning portrait of the historic motivations behind privatization. Teachers, policy makers, and progressive activists would do well to take heed.” In a Washington Post column, Jay Mathews deemed Overturning Brown “a provocative argument on segregation, school choice, and shared language.” Get a preview of some of the book’s key arguments in Steve’s recent op-ed in the Daily Beast, check out the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for an alarming history of the term “government schools,” and listen to Steve’s interview with the New Books NetworkOverturning Brown has also earned praise in Kirkus Reviews,  Forbes, and the ProgressiveAnd stay tuned: Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “On Second Thought” will air an interview with Steve on March 27, in advance of his Carter Center event with Shirley Franklin on March 31. In the weeks and months to come we expect we’ll hear a lot more about Overturning Brown and its compelling, essential call for genuine education equity.