Brown Girl Dreaming

by Jacqueline Woodson

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What was happening in US society at the time that Brown Girl Dreaming is set?

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The story begins with Jaqueline's birth in Columbus, Ohio in 1963, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, at almost exactly the time Martin Luther King was giving his "I Have a Dream Speech" and pressing to U.S. to honor its "debt" to award blacks equal rights.

While Jaqueline is still a baby, her family (minus her father) moves to segregated Greenville, South Carolina. Despite the Civil Rights movement being in full swing, Greenville remains segregated. At this time, reflecting the spirit of the era, Jaqueline and her family believe in peaceful protests to try to secure their rights.

Later, as the decade is heating up (and into the heated early 1970s), Jaqueline moves with family members to New York. Here, she and others become aware of more radical movements, such as the Black Panthers, and they become enamored of Angela Davis, not quite aware of how revolutionary she is.

The poem-novel or novel in verse very much follows the historical trajectory of the 1960s and early 1970s. Civil Rights started out as a passionate but nonviolent non-revolutionary movement meant to expand, not overturn, the system, but as the decade wore on, many forces converged—protests against the Viet Nam war, women's rights (which Jaqueline encounters), the beginning of gay rights, and other minority rights movements, such as those led by Native Americans and hispanics. This meant the entire society started to change. Radical movements, such as the Black Panthers and Angela Davis's Weathermen, accurately reflect the wild and topsy turvy history of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time in which Martin Luther King started to seem too tame. U.S. society changed, and Jaqueline witnesses some of that transformation.

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