Book of the Week

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Monday, February 11, 2008

A Hero in the Family
by Amy Nathan
For ages 9-12

Sarah Keys made newspaper headlines in 1955 but has been overlooked by history. Even her great-niece, Krystal Hargrave, didn't know about her story until she had to do a "hero project" in fifth grade.

Krystal's grandmother suggested that she write about her Aunt Sarah, and then told her this story:

In 1952 Sarah Keys was a young Women's Army Corps private. On a bus trip home to North Carolina, the driver demanded that she give up her seat and go sit in the back with the other African Americans.

This was common in the South in those days: African Americans were told what they could and could not do by so-called Jim Crow laws.

Keys was just 22 and very shy but also very brave. When she refused to move, she was arrested and jailed. A young African American lawyer took her case, which led to a November 1955 decision by government officials that it was against the law to restrict, because of race, where people could sit on trains and buses traveling from one state to another.

The decision was announced a week before a young African American woman in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a city bus. Her name was Rosa Parks. Civil rights workers rallied to her cause, which is why we know her name but not that of Sarah Keys (who later married and became Sarah Keys Evans).

Yet, as this book makes clear, both women -- the one who became famous and the one who did not -- were heroes in the civil rights struggle.

-- Marylou Tousignant

© 2008 The Washington Post Company