Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist

Scholastic Focus. Oct. 2022. 320p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781338754261.
Gr 5 Up–Binns provides an in-depth look at the life and legacy of Dr. James B. Williams, whose tireless efforts helped integrate the military and medicine. Binns begins by recounting segregation with a focus on the military, the First World War, and the horrors of the Red Summer of 1919. Williams became a member of the Medical Corps in 1942 and then later a pilot, ultimately joining the Tuskegee Airmen. As a Black officer, he was denied entry into the Officers’ Club and led protests to integrate it. Widely recognized as a major step towards integrating the military, the protests became known as the Freeman Field Mutiny. After the war, Williams worked as a doctor in Chicago. Segregation in medicine led to denial of care and death for many Black Americans; since these racist policies carried over to the American Medical Association, Williams became active in the National Medical Association (which did not have race or gender requirements for membership) and continued to fight segregation. His work led him to the office of President Kennedy as part of the lobbying for what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which denied funding to hospitals that practiced segregation and ultimately forced many facilities to desegregate. While the text is lengthy, readers will be rewarded by Binns’s fluid and absorbing writing. Includes numerous photographs and extensive back matter.
VERDICT Strongly recommended for middle school students as it fills a significant gap in YA nonfiction covering the critical fight to integrate the military and medicine.

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