O’Rourke does more than advocate for the idea that without voting rights, our nation would crumble. He tells the story of Dr. Lawrence Aaron Nixon. Dr. Nixon was the son of a formerly enslaved man and an early civil rights activist. Weaving throughout the history of the state (and his experience speaking to voters), he shares the narratives of others who have also stood up for free and fair elections.
I enjoyed this book. With his usual eloquence, openness, and direct nature, he is challenging the reader to stand up for this nation and our future. While having an eye for what might come, O’Rourke is looking to the past and lessons learned from the mistakes of our forebears.
Every once in a while, there comes a book that is so essential that it becomes a required read for every American and everyone who believes in democratic values. This book is one of them. Speaking from the heart, he reminds the reader that there is still time to avoid the precipice ahead. That is if we heed the warning signs.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also argue that it is one of the best books of the year.
We’ve Got to Try: How the Fight for Voting Rights Makes Everything Else Possible is available wherever books are sold.
Born and raised in Prince Edward County, Virginia, Ms. Green attended an all white school as a child. The only African-Americans that she came across were the household help. It was only when she left her hometown to attend college and find a job did she come to know people of other races. A journalist by profession, Ms. Green began to dig into the history of her town.
She discovered that American history did not extend farther than her own family.
In the wake of Brown Vs. Board Of Education (1954), the elders of Prince Edward County rebelled against the ruling in the best way that they knew how. All public schools were closed. White children whose parents made enough money were lucky enough to attend the private school established specifically to keep black children out. Black children and white children whose parents were on the lower end of the economic scale were forced to find other educational avenues for their children. In her research, Ms. Green came to discover that her grandfather was one of the men responsible for the establishment of the all white school.
I found this book to be riveting. Ms. Green mixes known history with interviews from people who lived through the era (including members of her own family) as well as clips from newspapers and official documents. In the end, Ms. Green makes peace with the past, but she also speaks of the potential that was lost when the public schools were closed. It is a lesson to be well learned.