Loved it! 😍

This is a strong story about a strong woman who faced down injustice and won.

Today, all public libraries in the United States are open to everyone. But that wasn’t always the case, as readers discover in this compelling story about Josie Murray and how she took on Jim Crow Laws, racial discrimination, and segregation and opened doors for not only herself but also for countless others in the process.

It’s a hot summer day. Young Josie and her grandmother decide to get ice cream at a restaurant in Virginia. But they’re halted by a Whites Only sign and must get their frozen treats from the take-out window.

Later, in the summer of 1933, it’s time to go back to school. Although she’s old enough for high school, Josie goes to Grandma Lena Mama’s house instead. The local high school doesn’t allow students of color to attend. When Josie expresses an interest in sewing, Lena Mama teaches her everything she knows on the subject. Josie is soon doing dress alterations for customers of every skin color. Josie’s reputation and business grows. She marries Sam Murray and becomes Josie Murray. Josie and her husband open an upholstery/sewing shop.

Fast forward to 1956. A customer requests a particular design, suggesting Josie can find the pattern at the local library. But that door is also closed to Josie. Just like the restaurant and the high school. Josie is determined to go to the library and get the pattern she needs, even though “the Purcellville Library doesn’t allow Negroes inside.”

Josie’s customer, Mrs. Moore, makes a call. The recipient of the phone call agrees that Josie should be able to check out any library book she wants. (I’d tell you who Mrs. Moore called, but that would give too much away. So you’ll have to read the book yourself to find that out.)

Josie decides to get a lawyer.  She files suit. Her lawyers discovers that the town library is a public library and receives federal funds. And if the public library continues to bar non-whites, it can lose its federal funding. But the library board can’t agree on a decision. So the whites only policy remains. Josie and Sam continue to fight. In 1957, the library officially opens to everyone.

And Josie Murray is invited to the White House.

This is a great story about perseverance and courage in the face of gross injustice. It moves quickly and includes colorful illustrations that reinforce and enhance the text.

The whole book is less than thirty pages, including Author Sources. But don’t let that fool you. It opens a door on an important historical event and skillfully digs into the issues, background, and personalities in play. It’s a masterful blend of expository and journalistic styles with a tone that’s positive and upbeat overall. It’ll make you want to stand up and cheer when Jose wins.

Additionally, the Author Notes “tucks in the tail” and rounds out Josie’s story. It explains, “Josie and Sam Murray’s actions against the Purcellville Town Library fueled the cause for desegregating all public buildings in the state of Virginia. In 1962, Loudoun Valley High School opened in Purcellville, and three African-American students enrolled. It was the first time that students of different races attended school together.”

This is a strong story about a story woman. It's a keeper!

Reviewed by

Lifelong bibliophile. Library Board Member. Select book reviews featured on my blog and Goodreads, etc. I'm a frank but fair reviewer, averaging 400+ books/year in a Wide Variety of genres on multiple platforms. Over 1,000 published reviews.


Not long ago, public libraries in Virginia were not so public. It would take the courage of a young African-American woman, Josie C. Murray, to challenge that. Closed doors had surrounded Josie's entire childhood. But in 1957, when she was denied the ability to check out a book from her local library because of her skin color, Josie took action. With the help of a lawyer, and even President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Josie became a catalyst for all public buildings in Virginia to desegregate.

About the author

Born in NYC, raised in NJ, educated in PA, and settled in VA and NC. An educator, professor of children's literature, freelance writer for 40 years, and published author of historical fiction and nonfiction. I specialize in stories about strong women from history who should have become famous. view profile

Published on May 10, 2023

Published by Brandylane Publishing LLC

1000 words

Genre: Children's

Reviewed by