Friday, January 19, 2007

A Stronger Kinship: One Town's Extraordinary Story of Hope and Faith by Anna-Lisa Cox

A Stronger Kinship by Anna-Lisa Cox is a true story of goodness in a world of evil.

The Midwest region of the United States during the latter half of the nineteenth century was not a safe place for African-Americans. Men from these states, including blacks, fought with the Union in the Civil War, but the outcome of the war did not lessen discrimination against blacks in the region. When black soldiers who were born in Indiana returned from the war, they found they had lost residency and were required to pay exorbitant Black Code bonds to return to the state. Most of the states would not allow blacks to run for public offices, and a blond blue-eyed man who was one-sixteenth black was thrown into prison was trying. Black children were denied schooling, and, as the decades passed, lynching became more common.

Quietly, the men and women of Covert in southwestern Michigan built an alternative community. In April 1868, the voters of the community defied state law and elected both an African-American and Native American (who was not even considered a citizen) as highway overseers. By 1875, Covert had a black justice of the peace to whom many whites had to go legal assistance. Blacks owned some of the best farms and small businesses, and their children were in the schools, sharing desks, attending dances, and signing autograph books with whites. Whites and blacks worshiped together, held picnics, served on local committees, and joined together in business ventures. Integration was common every day life.

New residents sometimes threatened the order of the community. Cox tells about several serious challenges that could have split Covert racially, but community leaders remained calm and patient, and bonds became stronger. Unhappy whites always left unable to exploit the blacks. Twentieth century civil rights activists could have learned from the common people of Covert.

A Stronger Kinship is a quick read and would be an excellent choice for a book discussion group.

Cox, Anna-Lisa. A Stronger Kinship: One Town's Extraordinary Story of Hope and Faith. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006. ISBN 0316110183

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