Women’s History Month Kid Lit Review of “Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott” by Mara Rockliff

This is the second picture book for kids I have read that tells the true story of Georgia Gilmore, whose sales of baked goods helped nourish the famous Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. (The other is called Pies from Nowhere by Dee Romito.) The boycott began on December 1, 1955 after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus. (Technically, Parks did not sit in the white section at all; she sat in the front row of the “colored” section and refused to give up her seat to a white when the bus got crowded.)

Georgia already had been avoiding buses for two months before Rosa was arrested on account of the way she had been treated by drivers. Thus Georgia was eager to help with the boycott, and the best way she knew was to take advantage of her skills as a cook. She began selling dinners, including her famous crispy chicken sandwiches, as well as cakes and pies, to generate money to help fund the movement. Then she organized a group of like-minded women to help. The women had to keep their activities a secret though, or they would lose their jobs. Therefore, Georgia recounted, when asked, the women said that the food “came from nowhere.”

Georgia’s employer did find out about her activities, however, after she joined more than 80 people testifying in Martin Luther King’s defense in a trial over the boycott. [City officials obtained injunctions against the boycott in February 1956, and indicted over 80 boycott leaders under a 1921 law prohibiting conspiracies that interfered with lawful business. King was tried and convicted on the charge and ordered to pay $500 or serve 386 days in jail in the case State of Alabama v. M. L. King, Jr.] Georgia was fired.

Somehow she had to support her six children, whom she was raising on her own. Dr. King advised her to improve the kitchen in her home and start her own business. He even gave her money for pots and pans. Word got around, and even whites came to Georgia’s for the food. Dr. King often came there and brought other civil rights leaders for important meetings. Guests at her home included Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy.

The resistance lasted 381 days and involved an improvised car pool system with 300 cars and dozens of pickup and drop-off locations for African Americans boycotting the buses. Much of the funding came from the Club from Nowhere, which raised so much money it purchased not only gas for the cars to use, but even some station wagons to add to the pool!

On November 13, 1956, U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws requiring segregated seating on public buses, and on Dec. 20, 1956, King called for the end of the boycott. In a wonderful conclusion, the author writes:

“Now, some folks in Montgomery said they had never tasted anything like Georgia’s chicken. Some declared there could be nothing more delicious than her pie. But that night, they tasted justice. And nothing else Georgia cooked up would ever taste so sweet.”

Back matter includes a note on what happened after the boycott, and a long list of sources.

Acrylic illustrations by R. Gregory Christie employ bright colors, serving as a reflection through art of the bold and uplifting events of that heady time when progress was made in civil rights.

Evaluation: This book for readers aged four and up is another welcome addition to materials that bring to light the way ordinary people can find ways to help fight injustice, and can make a big difference in the end.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Random House Studio, 2022

Georgia Gilmore, via NYTimes

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2 Responses to Women’s History Month Kid Lit Review of “Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott” by Mara Rockliff

  1. sagustocox says:

    This sounds like an excellent book.

  2. stacybuckeye says:

    I know Gage and I read about her somewhere, but I don’t think it was the picture book you mentioned. I’ll have to check it out.

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