Friday, June 4, 1954.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is President.
A first class stamp costs 3 cents.
A new car costs $1,000.
Gas is 22 cents a gallon.
A box of grits costs 84 cents, and a loaf of bread is 17 cents.
And today is the last day forever at Attucks Elementary School.
The Supreme Court said there can't be any more segregation and the colored school is going to close.
I'm Rosemary and when I go back to school in September, I'll go to a school that used to be all white. But then I find out that JJ, my best friend since kindergarten, will be going to Robertson, too, so I won't be the only colored kid in sixth grade. Then just before school starts, JJ gets polio, and nearly dies. I'm gonna be all alone after all. And the worst part isn't just missing JJ and worrying about him, it's the fact that one of the meanest girls I've ever known, Grace Hamilton, is assigned a seat right next to me. She and her family just moved here, and they live in my part of town. The colored part. You'd think that since they're the only white kids in the neighborhood, they'd want to keep to themselves and not make trouble. But trouble's exactly what the Hamilton kids love. They love trouble and they hate colored people. My friends and I are always having to fight them about one thing or another. And now I'm gonna have to spend the whole school year sitting right next to the meanest of them all.
Sixth grade is looking like it's going to be a bad year. Mama and Daddy have been fighting, and now Daddy's moved into a room over his car repair shop. JJ, who loved to run more than anything else in the world, is paralyzed from the waist down. And Grace the Tasteless sits right next to me. Can it get worse?
Actually, it can. But it also gets better. Amazing things happen when you get to know someone, instead of fighting with them.