Young Adult Novel Marks 40th Anniversary of Desegregation of Memphis-Area Schools

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Ten years after Brown v. Board of Education, most Southern schools remained defiantly segregated. Author Lyda Phillips tells the story of one school's desegregation in her young adult novel, Mr. Touchdown.

In 1965, 10 years after Brown v. Board of Education, the South remained defiantly segregated. In Mr. Touchdown, Eddie Russell, a star running back, and his timid sister, Lakeesha, are told they will be helping to desegregate an all-white high school. Their father tells them they will be fighting for a righteous cause, but they aren’t buying it -- because they have no choice in the matter.

From the first day of school, the wall of hostility Eddie and Lakeesha face at Forrest High School seems unbreakable, until cheerleader Nancy Martin crosses the line to befriend the black students—starting a cycle of violence that threatens to spin out of control.

Author Lyda Phillips draws on her own experience in this iUniverse Editor’s Choice young-adult novel.

"I was a cheerleader and an honor student in 1965 at Whitehaven High School when four African-American students integrated the school—three girls and one boy, a football player named William Reed,” Phillips said. "Toward the end of the football season, Willie Reed blocked a punt, which won the game for us. From that moment on, his fate was secure, his place was made.

"The three girls, however, sat all by themselves at the very end of the teachers’ table in the cafeteria. No one spoke to them. At some point in the middle of that school year, those girls simply faded away.

"The image of them sitting there alone has stayed with me ever since," Phillips said. "Since then I’ve talked to probably hundreds of people—black and white—about their experiences with segregation."

In 1999, Mr. Touchdown won first-place in children’s literature in the Authorlink New Voices contest and second place in the annual Paul Gillette Writing Contest in association with the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

Mr. Touchdown is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iUniverse, as well as at all booksellers through Ingram and Baker & Taylor distributors (July 29, 2005, ISBN 0-595-67288-4 hardcover $23.95; ISBN 0-595-35900-0 trade paperback, $13.95).

Lyda Phillips is an award-winning journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. A native of San Antonio, she went to school in Memphis, Tennessee, and has degrees from Northwestern, Columbia, and Vanderbilt universities. She was a business and political reporter for the Nashville Banner, research coordinator for Governor Phil Bredesen’s 1994 gubernatorial campaign, and a senior account executive for McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations in Nashville before moving to the Washington, D.C., area in 2000. She now lives in Maryland with her family. More information about her is available at http://www.lydaphillips.com.

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