Hope in the Struggle is a captivating book that explores the history of racial inequality in the United States. Author Josie R. Johnson speaks on social unrest, discrimination, and racial injustice from the perspective of the Black community. Through documenting over seventy years of personal experience within the civil rights movement, and through her seemingly endless accomplishments on the frontlines of fighting for racial, social, and economic justice, Johnson illustrates that, while the struggle for equality is hard-fought, “we will survive, we will live, and we will have hope.”
From an early age, Johnson’s parents taught her and her two brothers the importance of civic engagement. Her father served in the NAACP, and her mother was a social worker who taught uneducated, middle-class women to read and write. Johnson carried these values with her to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she studied chemistry and sociology. In school, she was exposed to notorious figures in the civil rights movement, such as Thurgood Marshall, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Roy Wilkins. She writes, “my experiences at Fisk, coupled with the values my parents instilled in me, helped create a tireless desire to be deeply involved with the struggle of my people.”
As the book traverses time, moving through Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, and past the March on Washington in 1963, where Johnson had flown to D.C. with more than fifty other activists to participate in the march, we finally land at the heart of the book: Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Johnson, along with her husband and daughters, settle into a community rich with activism and the hunger for change. After learning about Minnesota’s ripe history of struggle and inequality, and after living a lifetime of hardship herself, Johnson acknowledges that, while severe progress has been made, we are a long way from equal. She writes, “We need patience with those who need instant gratification, who have been deeply touched and wounded by supremacy and racism, who have only felt the pain of what has not worked. We must love and understand our brothers and sisters who have not been blessed with love, security, and examples of belief in what’s possible.”
The book is not concerned with pointing fingers at those who have wronged us, made life hard for us. At its core, Hope in the Struggle is about identifying the issues that have plagued the world for hundreds of years, and instead of agonizing over what cannot be changed, encourages us to be that change, to rise from our struggle, and do everything in our power to make the world a better place for everyone.