Can a group of well-intentioned people fulfill the promise of racial integration in America?
In this searing and intimate examination of the ideals and realities of racial integration, award-winning Washington Post journalist Laura Meckler tells the story of a decades-long pursuit in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and uncovers the roadblocks that have threatened progress time and again—in housing, in education, and in the promise of shared community.
In the late 1950s, Shaker Heights began groundbreaking work that would make it a national model for housing integration. And beginning in the seventies, it was known as a crown jewel in the national move to racially integrate schools. The school district built a reputation for academic excellence and diversity, serving as a model for how white and Black Americans can thrive together. Meckler—herself a product of Shaker Heights—takes a deeper look into the place that shaped her, investigating its complicated history and its ongoing challenges in order to untangle myth from truth. She confronts an enduring, and troubling, question—if Shaker Heights has worked so hard at racial equity, why does a racial academic achievement gap persist?
In telling the stories of the Shakerites who have built and lived in this community, Meckler asks: What will it take to fulfill the promise of racial integration in America? What compromises are people of all races willing to make? What does success look like, and has Shaker achieved it? The result is a complex and masterfully reported portrait of a place that, while never perfect, has achieved more than most and a road map for communities that seek to do the same.
About the author
Laura Meckler (AB ’90) is national education writer for the Washington Post, where she covers education across the country as well as national education policy and politics. She previously reported on the White House, presidential politics, immigration, and health care for the Wall Street Journal, as well as health and social policy for the Associated Press. Her honors include a Nieman Fellowship and Livingston Award for National Reporting, and she was part of a team that won the George Polk Award for Justice Reporting. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two sons.