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In 1957, nine African American teenagers faced angry mobs and the resistance of a segregationist governor to claim their right to educational equality. The bravery of the Little Rock Nine, as they became known, captured the country’s imagination and made history but created deep scars in the community. Jay Jennings, a veteran sportswriter and native son of Little Rock, returned to his hometown in 2007 to take the pulse of the city and the school as the fiftieth anniversary of the integration fight approached. He found a compelling story in the school’s football team, where black and white students came together under longtime coach Bernie Cox, whose philosophy of discipline and responsibility and punishing brand of physical football knew no color. Carry the Rock tells the story of the dramatic ups and downs of a high school football season, and it reveals a city struggling with its legacy of racial tension and grappling with complex, subtle issues of contemporary segregation. What Friday Night Lights did for small-town Texas, Carry the Rock does for the urban south and for any place like Little Rock, where sports, race, and community intersect.

“Jennings writes…with authority and power.”

— Howard Bryant, New York Times Book Review


Carry the Rock transcends the season-on- the-brink genre.”

— Eddie Dean, Wall Street Journal


“We’re just a page or two into the prologue when we realize we’re in the hands of a discerning and expert storyteller. The sweeping opening gives way to a multi-tiered narrative that isn’t just great sportswriting, but chronicles the history of a team, a school and a city that, 50 years later, is still trying to come to terms with its most harrowing and/or calcifying event. This is not an undemanding story about a football team; it’s a rich portrait of a complicated place and its people.”

Arkansas Times


“A native son juxtaposes passion for football and the tumultuous history of race relations in Little Rock. The result is a must-read page-turner.”

— Minnijean Brown Trickey, Little Rock Nine member


“A sweeping yet nuanced portrait of race in America— a picture of how far we have come since the Little Rock Nine made their historic stand and of how far we still have to go.”

— Jonathan Mahler, author of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning


“Jennings has produced that rarest of things: A book about race and sports that avoids all the usual clichés. Unsentimental yet inspiring, Carry the Rock does what all books about race relations should attempt but few achieve. It tells the reader something he doesn’t know.”

— Joe Queenan, author of True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans and Closing Time: A Memoir

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