“We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation” by Michael Gengler


Michael T. Gengler
Rosetta Books (2018)
ISBN 9781948122146
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (6/19)

“We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation” by Michael Gengler provides readers with an in-depth, well-researched account of how Alachua County, Florida faced the challenge of desegregation of their schools with openness and concern for the well-being of all schools.

The author provides an excellent point of view on how the parents and community came together to put black and white students together so they all would end up with the best education possible. Given that during this era private schools or going to another school district were not an option, I was thrilled with how everyone came together to do what was right for the students.

Excellent points are made by Gengler in that this was a new experience for all, and this means that there is no manual to follow. Teachers, administrators and students learned through challenges how to make it work in all areas. Gengler also addressed that even though blacks and whites lived in the same community and there were separate situations, both races wanted fair and equal treatment, especially when it came to education.

The book itself is quite lengthy and will take time to read; this approach from both the legal standpoint and local individual stories have a huge impact. Many previous books only talk about the negatives regarding desegregation; I was pleased to see the author give individuals a voice.

I found the comparison of Gainesville High School and Lincoln High School to be quite interesting. Gainesville High School students were predominately middle class and children of educated parents, while Lincoln students were often poor and lacked education. Also, Lincoln families resented the fact that many students abandoned all-black schools. Many of the black students who went to integrated schools realized just how far behind they were academically to their counterparts.  I also found it interesting that white schools were deemed the model education program. Why didn’t they improve black schools?

“We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation” by Michael Gengler was a fascinating read, well researched and informative. The read itself appears to be a study given all the historical facts and information. I highly recommend this educational and enlightening read.

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