Maxine Smith's Unwilling Pupils
Lessons Learned in Memphis's Civil Rights Classroom
Maxine Smith’s Unwilling Pupils is the authorized biography of Maxine Atkins Smith. As such it tells the story of the civil rights movement in Memphis from Smith’s viewpoint. Primarily based on newspaper accounts from the 1960s and 1970s and on Smith’s papers housed at the Memphis Public Library, the book also draws from a rich source of interviews conducted by the coauthors and others.
This book presents a well-balanced historical background of the civil rights era even while serving as a tribute to Maxine Smith and her work. A panoramic view of Maxine’s life, Maxine Smith’s Unwilling Pupils, presents one woman’s struggle as a prism for understanding the human dimensions of the fight for equality.
The biography portrays Smith’s lifelong focus on education as she tried to enlighten both blacks and whites about equality and the inalienable rights of all races. Along the way she became the face of the civil rights movement in Memphis during a critical time in the movement’s history. Maxine’s unwilling pupils often hated her for her outspoken and tenacious advocacy for those rights; her followers loved her for her unwavering commitment to ensure the rights of African Americans.
Smith’s selfless struggles as chronicled in this biography will leave no doubt that her influence on the progress of civil rights in Memphis was profound. Moreover, her example of tireless commitment should inspire the efforts of new generations of equal rights activists to come.
Sherry L. Hoppe is president of Austin Peay State University. She has coedited a number of volumes with Bruce W. Speck in the New Directions for Teaching and Learning series. She is coeditor, with Dr. Speck, of Service-Learning: History, Theory, and Issues.
Bruce W. Speck is provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Austin Peay State University. He is the co-author, with Jordy Rocheleau, of Rights and Wrongs in the College Classroom: Ethical Issues in Postsecondary Teaching. He has written numerous articles and contributed to edited volumes.