school is not white Illustrated by Curtis James

The School is Not White tells the story of one family’s courage and perseverance during the civil rights movement. In 1965, the Carter family took advantage of the “freedom of choice” law, which allowed black students to attend all white schools. Despite taunts, isolation and threats at school, the Carter children triumphed.


NAACP Image Award finalist


You will not be able to read this story without shedding a few tears. Highly Recommended. – Library Media Connection, starred review.

“Rappaport writes with an eloquent simplicity echoed in James’s determined, monumental figures.” – The Horn Book.

“Rappaport is careful to use documented facts and dialogue to impart the loneliness, courage ad determination of this remarkable, extraordinary family. James’s strong, heavily outlined illustrated emphasize the powerful family dynamics in the face of hatred. – Kirkus Reviews.

“When the Carters make the unpopular and risky decision to send their seven children to an all-white school with better resources for students, they face many obstacles both inside and outside the building. Rappaport emphasizes the family’s determination and perseverance, especially the mother, Mae Bertha Carter, who tells her children “the school is not white” and that they have every right to an education. The chalk-and-pastel illustrations are somber and realistic with moments of brightness that seem symbolic of hope. The Carters are injured, but they are not broken. . . .a useful resource for helping children to see how history does, in fact, include ordinary people. The author has included notes about how this book took shape through her own questions about the past. In addition, she provides an epilogue about the Carter children as successful adults.” – Booklist

“The Carter family of Drew, Mississippi, represents the ordinary heroes of the civil rights movement in America, the kind of people whom Rappaport refers to in the author’s note as “not-yet-celebrated Americans.” This story is a worthy celebration. An important reminder that for every Ruby Bridges or Barbara Johns, there were hundreds of child civil rights heroes like the Carter siblings.” — School Library Journal

The School is Not White spread 1
The School is Not White spread 2

Learn More

Meet The Carters Small

Meet the Carters in person:

Hear Mae Bertha Carter and her daughter, Gloria, tell about their experiences in the documentary, “Standing On My Sisters’ Shoulders”

Gloria Carter Dickerson founded and is CEO of an organization called We Together Creating Change. (also listed as We Together Working for Change but Mississippi Public Broadcasting lists it as the former). Hear her share her experience going to school and why she founded this organization. She goes into a pep talk for kids today.

This student made documentary was submitted to the National History Day Competition in Washington, D. C.

Fannie Lou Hamer “Go Tell It On The Mountain” (1963):

During the Civil Rights Movement, song was an important part of keeping people’s spirits up as they non-violently battled segregation. Activist Fannie Lou Hamer used her voice to inspire many other black Southerners.

Learn about another extraordinary young civil rights activist. Ruby Bridges


Doreen’s Study Guides


Read Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges and Margo Lundell and compare Bridges’ differences and similarities in her experience to the Carters’ experiences.

Study the art in the book. Have the students focus on the facial expressions of the different characters. What is the artist saying in each instance about their feelings with his renditions?

Return to African American History or Find in a Library