Join us for a book reading & signing with Margaret Edds, author of We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal Team that Dismantled Jim Crow. Free and open to the public.
About the book: The decisive victories in the fight for racial equality in America were not easily won, much less inevitable; they were achieved through carefully conceived strategy and the work of tireless individuals dedicated to this most urgent struggle. In We Face the Dawn, Margaret Edds tells the gripping story of how the South's most significant grassroots legal team challenged the barriers to racial segregation in mid-century America.
Virginians Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson initiated and argued one of the five cases that combined into the landmark Brown v. Board of Education, but their influence extends far beyond that momentous ruling. They were part of a small brotherhood, headed by social-justice pioneer Thurgood Marshall and united largely through the Howard Law School, who conceived and executed the NAACP’s assault on racial segregation in education, transportation, housing, and voting. Hill and Robinson’s work served as a model for southern states and an essential underpinning for Brown. When the Virginia General Assembly retaliated with laws designed to disbar the two lawyers and discredit the NAACP, they defiantly carried the fight to the United States Supreme Court and won.
At a time when numerous schools have resegregated and the prospects of many minority children appear bleak, Hill and Robinson’s remarkably effective campaign against various forms of racial segregation can inspire a new generation to embrace educational opportunity as the birthright of every American child.
About the author: The possibility of a book about Virginia’s leading civil rights icons intrigued me for many years. It seemed a natural culmination of my thirty-four-year immersion in Virginia politics and government, first as a statehouse reporter and then as an editorial writer for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. A focus on racial justice threaded that career, including book-length studies involving the nation’s first popularly elected black governor, the results of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and a criminal justice system that sometimes crucifies innocents.
It was not until retiring from the newspaper in 2007, and completing a book drawn from letters to and from my mother, that opportunity and interest in Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson aligned. By then, both men were deceased, and my five-year research project depended heavily on archival material and interviews with their family, co-workers, and acquaintances. Even so, my personal glimpses of the men informed the record.
I spoke only once with Judge Robinson—at the fortieth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Even in that brief encounter, he displayed the politeness and integrity that were defining characteristics. He weighed my request for an interview and declined, citing his desire to avoid any appearance of conflict while serving the federal courts as a senior judge. Luckily, Hill was less reticent. Listening to his memories as he sat in the Richmond courtroom where he and Robinson argued Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County remains a highlight of my journalistic career.
That journey began with college internships at the Nashville Tennessean in the late 1960s. I was born in Harlan County, Kentucky; grew up in a Nashville suburb; and earned degrees from Tennessee Wesleyan College and the University of Richmond. Hill and Robinson’s birthplace, Richmond, has been home for the last thirty-eight years. I live here with my husband, Bob Lipper, also a retired journalist. We cherish three adult children and their families.