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We Face the Dawn

Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal Team That Dismantled Jim Crow
Margaret Edds

BUY Cloth · 424 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813940441 · $29.95 · Feb 2018
BUY Ebook · 424 pp. · ISBN 9780813940458 · $29.95 · Feb 2018

The decisive victories in the fight for racial equality in America were not easily won, much less inevitable; they were achieved through carefully conceived strategy and the work of tireless individuals dedicated to this most urgent struggle. In We Face the Dawn, Margaret Edds tells the gripping story of how the South's most significant grassroots legal team challenged the barriers to racial segregation in mid-century America.

Virginians Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson initiated and argued one of the five cases that combined into the landmark Brown v. Board of Education, but their influence extends far beyond that momentous ruling. They were part of a small brotherhood, headed by social-justice pioneer Thurgood Marshall and united largely through the Howard Law School, who conceived and executed the NAACP’s assault on racial segregation in education, transportation, housing, and voting. Hill and Robinson’s work served as a model for southern states and an essential underpinning for Brown. When the Virginia General Assembly retaliated with laws designed to disbar the two lawyers and discredit the NAACP, they defiantly carried the fight to the United States Supreme Court and won.

At a time when numerous schools have resegregated and the prospects of many minority children appear bleak, Hill and Robinson’s remarkably effective campaign against various forms of racial segregation can inspire a new generation to embrace educational opportunity as the birthright of every American child.


The story of Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson—and all they did to change Virginia and America—needed telling, and Margaret Edds has done a masterful job. I knew both men and was honored as Governor to unveil a civil rights memorial at our Capitol with their likenesses prominently displayed. Hill and Robinson and their many dedicated colleagues loved Virginia and spent their entire lives turning the Commonwealth from past to future. This book is an appropriate tribute to their efforts.

Senator Tim Kaine

The product of prodigious research, We Face the Dawn tells the terrifically important story of a largely unheralded subject. Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson lie just outside the pantheon of much-studied NAACP lawyers such as Thurgood Marshall, Charles Houston, and William Hastie. Yet these two lawyers were key figures in the legal arm of the movement, and they practiced in an equally key state, Virginia. Edds has done a painstaking piece of research in unearthing their lives and careers, and her book communicates the rich details of those lives and much of their importance.

Kenneth W. Mack, Harvard Law School, is the author of Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer

About the Author: 

Margaret Edds, a retired journalist, is the author of Finding Sara: A Daughter’s Journey and An Expendable Man: The Near Execution of Earl Washington, Jr. among other books.

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