Finalist for the 1991 National Book Award and a New York Times Notable book, Praying for Sheetrock is the story of McIntosh County, a small, isolated, and lovely place on the flowery coast of Georgia--and a county where, in the 1970s, the white sheriff still wielded all the power, controlling everything and everybody. Somehow the sweeping changes of the civil rights movement managed to bypass McIntosh entirely. It took one uneducated, unemployed black man, Thurnell Alston, to challenge the sheriff and his courthouse gang--and to change the way of life in this community forever. "An inspiring and absorbing account of the struggle for human dignity and racial equality" (Coretta Scott King)
Despite what it said in the New York Times or the Congressional Record, not everybody in America got the word right away about the civil rights movement. Thus it was that well into the 1970s, McIntosh County in backwoods Georgia remained a place where the black majority still had never elected one of their own to any county office, where black kids were bused away from the white school, and where the white county sheriff had his hand in every racket there was. Praying for Sheetrock is the saga of how, thanks to the leadership of a black shop-steward-turned-county-commissioner named Thurnell Alston, together with the aid of a cadre of idealistic Legal Services lawyers (Melissa Greene was one of their paralegals) this situation began to change. The story, written as grippingly as a novel, is charged with twists that only nonfiction can deliver; for example, Alston, for all the brave good he did, ultimately got caught in a federal sting and went to jail while the corrupt sheriff walked. This is, writes Greene, a story of "large and important things happening in a very little place."