In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson to eliminate discrimination in America’s political elections. “The law was passed to stop such criminal acts as racial gerrymandering, poll taxes, and economic reprisals.” In Evicted!, Duncan tells the gripping true story known as the Fayette County Tent City Movement. She follows ten individuals to retell the events leading up to the trial of sharecropper Burton Dodson in 1959, and how that pivotal moment brought the Black community in Fayette County to stand together to demand their right to vote.
“In 1950, Fayette County’s population of 28.000 was two-thirds Black, and the Black majority was made up mostly of unlearned sharecroppers living on cotton farms owned by white landowners.” To discourage Blacks from registering to vote, the white minority used fear of lynching and terror of fire. Each two-page spread, Duncan recounts the events that had families burned out of their homes and forced to relocate to a makeshift community of tents, called, “Tent City.” “Seven hundred Black families in both Fayette and Haywood Counties were removed from their farms where they had lived and worked for two or three decades.”
Once Blacks registered to vote, their names were placed on a list, a “blacklist”, that was shared throughout the white community in Fayette County. They were denied groceries and gasoline, white doctors denied medicine, and insurance agents cancelled policies.
This well-documented narrative nonfiction includes an epilogue, timeline, list of resources, bibliography, and brief author and artist note. Charly Palmer’s illustrations, rendered in acrylic paint, capture the emotion of this time.
An upsetting read given the present political situation, Evicted! is an important addition to all collections, a must read for middle and high school readers.
Click here to listen to an interview with Alice Fay Duncan.