When Aaron Henry returned home to Mississippi from World War II service in 1946, he was part of wave of black servicemen who challenged the racial status quo. He became a pharmacist through the GI Bill, and as a prominent citizen, he organized a hometown chapter of the NAACP and relatively quickly became leader of the state chapter.
From that launching pad he joined and helped lead an ensemble of activists who fundamentally challenged the system of segregation and the almost total exclusion of African Americans from the political structure. These efforts were most clearly evident in his leadership of the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation, which, after an unsuccessful effort to unseat the lily-white Democratic delegation at the Democratic National Convention in 1964, won recognition from the national party in 1968.
The man who the New York Times described as being “at the forefront of every significant boycott, sit-in, protest march, rally, voter registration drive and court case” eventually became a rare example of a social-movement leader who successfully moved into political office. Aaron Henry of Mississippi covers the life of this remarkable leader, from his humble beginnings in a sharecropping family to his election to the Mississippi house of representatives in 1979, all the while maintaining the social-change ideology that prompted him to improve his native state, and thereby the nation.
Photographer and writer Joel Katz presents a pictorial chronicle of his travels through the shifting islands of fear and loss, freedom and deliverance that was segregated Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964
In June 1964, college student Joel Katz boarded a Greyhound bus in Hartford, Connecticut, for Jackson, Mississippi. He carried few possessions—a small bag of clothes, a written invitation to call on Frank Barber, who was special assistant to Governor Paul Johnson, and a Honeywell Pentax H1-A camera with three lenses.
A few days after his arrival in Jackson, the city’s Daily News ran on its front page an FBI alert seeking Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, three field workers from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) who’d gone missing while investigating a church burning in Neshoba County. In the uneasy silence of their disappearance, Katz began a seven-week journey across the state. Along the way, he met the people of Mississippi, black and white, of all ages and classes, from the humble to the grand. These Mississippians encouraged or obstructed change in their traditional culture or simply observed the edifice of that culture tremble and fall.
During 1964’s Freedom Summer, Katz met ministers making history and journalists writing it. He photographed Martin Luther King Jr. and James Abernathy, taught at a freedom school, interviewed a leader of the White Citizens Councils, was harassed by Jackson police, and escaped death in Vicksburg. Six weeks after Katz arrived in Mississippi, the FBI found the bodies of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner in an earthen dam.
Inspired by the social documentary photographs of Walker Evans and Robert Frank, Katz snapped hauntingly quotidian photos on his Pentax camera. Amid acts of brutal savagery and transcendent courage that transfixed the nation, Katz discovered resilient individuals living quiet lives worthy of witness. And I Said No Lord is a moving and luminous record of Americans in evolution.
Best known as the man who organized the Great March on Washington in 1963, Bayard Rustin was a vital force in the civil rights movement from the 1940s through the 1980s. Rustins's activism embraced the wide range of crucial issues of his time: communism, international pacifism, and race relations.
Rustin's long activist career began with his association with A. Phillip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Then, as a member of A. J. Muste's Fellowship of Reconciliation, he participated in the "Journey of Reconciliation" (an early version of the "Freedom Rides" of 1961). He was a close associate of Martin Luther King in Montgomery and Atlanta and rose to prominence as organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. Rustin played a key role in applying nonviolent direct action to American race relations while rejecting the separatism of movements like Black Power in the 1960s, even at the risk of his being marginalized by the younger generation of civil rights activists. In his later years he tried to hold the civil rights coalition together and to fight for the economic changes he thought were necessary to decrease racism.
Daniel Levine has written the first scholarly biography that examines Rustin's public as well as private persona in light of his struggles as a gay black man and as an activist who followed his own principles and convictions. The result is a rich portrait of a complex, indomitable advocate for justice in American society.
A leading African American Communist, lawyer William L. Patterson (1891–1980) was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the defeat of Jim Crowby virtue of his leadership of the Scottsboro campaign in the 1930s. In this watershed biography, historian Gerald Horne shows how Patterson helped to advance African American equality by fostering and leveraging international support for the movement. Horne highlights key moments in Patterson's global activism: his early education in the Soviet Union, his involvement with the Scottsboro trials and other high-profile civil rights cases of the 1930s to 1950s, his 1951 "We Charge Genocide" petition to the United Nations, and his later work with prisons and the Black Panther Party.
Through Patterson's story, Horne examines how the Cold War affected the freedom movement, with civil rights leadership sometimes disavowing African American leftists in exchange for concessions from the U.S. government. He also probes the complex and often contradictory relationship between the Communist Party and the African American community, including the impact of the FBI's infiltration of the Communist Party. Drawing from government and FBI documents, newspapers, periodicals, archival and manuscript collections, and personal papers, Horne documents Patterson's effectiveness at carrying the freedom struggle into the global arena and provides a fresh perspective on twentieth-century struggles for racial justice.
If the Mandelas were the generals in the fight for black liberation, the Mashininis were the foot soldiers. Theirs is a story of exile, imprisonment, torture, and loss, but also of dignity, courage, and strength in the face of appalling adversity. Originally published in Great Britain to critical acclaim, A Burning Hunger: One Family’s Struggle Against Apartheid tells a deeply moving human story and is one of the seminal books about the struggle against apartheid.
This family, Joseph and Nomkhitha Mashinini and their thirteen children, became immersed in almost every facet of the liberation struggle—from guerrilla warfare to urban insurrection. Although Joseph and Nomkhitha were peaceful citizens who had never been involved in politics, five of their sons became leaders in the antiapartheid movement. When the students of Soweto rose up in 1976 to protest a new rule making Afrikaans the language of instruction, they were led by charismatic young Tsietsi Mashinini. Scores of students were shot down and hundreds were injured. Tsietsi’s actions on that day set in motion a chain of events that would forever change South Africa, define his family, and transform their lives.
A Burning Hunger shows the human catastrophe that plagued generations of black Africans in the powerful story of one religious and law-abiding Soweto family. Basing her narrative on extensive research and interviews, Lynda Schuster richly portrays this remarkable family and in so doing reveals black South Africa during a time of momentous change.
Activists and historians reflect together on the civil rights movement and its meanings, and on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's place in American history.
"The reminiscences and reflections voiced at the SNCC reunion remind us of the remarkable vision and courageous dedication of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Framed by Cheryl Greenberg's eloquent and probing introduction, the SNCC veterans' comments about the triumphs and limitations of their movement represent a major contribution to the historical literature on race and power in modern America."--Raymond Arsenault, University of South Florida
On the occasion of the SNCC's 25th anniversary, more than 500 people gathered at Trinity College in Connecticut to both celebrate and critique its accomplishments. More than 40 SNCC members tell their stories and reflect on the contributions, limits and legacies of the movement in A Circle of Trust. Engaging in spirited debate with each other, with historians of the movement, and with contemporary political culture more broadly, these former and perpetual activists speak of their vision of a just society and what still remains to be done. With increasing racial tension and the continued debate over integration and separatism in America in the 1990s, the content of this conference is more relevant than ever.
Cheryl Lynn Greenberg begins with an overview of SNCC and introduces each of the chapters of oral history. Participants explore the origins of SNCC, its early adoption of nonviolent protest, its ultimate renunciation of liberal integration and embrace of militant black radicalism, its refusal to repudiate far-left organizations, and controversies over the roles of women in SNCC and society at large. The result is a thoughtful, moving, sometimes acrimonious, sometimes celebratory account of one of the most significant civil rights organizations and its successes and failures.
"Joe Rauh was the type of lawyer who comes along maybe once in a generation---talented, politically astute, effective, and stubbornly devoted to principles, the type of person who not only could but did make a difference. He deserves a biography that explores not only his persona, but the America in which he lived and worked, and how he made a difference to so many people. Michael Parrish has given us just such a book, an exceedingly fine, well-written story that will make clear to another generation not only who Joe Rauh was, but why we as a nation will always need someone like him."
---Melvin I. Urofsky, Professor of Law and Public Policy, Virginia Commonwealth University
"Michael Parrish has captured the life of this great civil libertarian in splendid fashion. His biography of this energetic New Deal liberal weaves effortlessly between public and private, friend and foe, victory and defeat. With Parrish as a sure guide, Citizen Rauh transports the reader through an American history that begins with Sacco and Vanzetti and ends as he battles CIA skullduggery in the 1980s. This biography should be on your shelf and in your heart."
---Nelson Lichtenstein, MacArthur Foundation Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy, University of California, Santa Barbara
"Michael Parrish has fashioned a biography filled with Rauh's spirit, achievements, his losses, and above all, the importance of his presence. This is a wonderful account of a giant of late 20th century political and legal affairs."
---Stanley Kutler, E. Gordon Fox Professor Emeritus of American Institutions, History, and Law, University of Wisconsin, Madison
"The causes to which Rauh committed his life retain their moral force today. This well-crafted, often powerful, biographical study will appeal to anyone with a serious interest in postwar liberalism."
---Daniel Scroop, University of Sheffield
Citizen Rauh tells the story of American lawyer Joseph L. Rauh Jr., who kept alive the ideals of New Deal liberalism and broadened those ideals to include a commitment to civil rights. Rauh's clients included Arthur Miller, Lillian Hellman, A. Philip Randolph, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. With good reason Freedom Rider John Lewis once called him "the blackest white man I ever knew."
No lawyer in the post-1945 era did more to protect the economic interests of working-class Americans than Rauh, who fought for the unions as they struggled for legitimacy and against them when they betrayed their own members. No lawyer stood more courageously against repressive anticommunism during the 1950s or advanced the cause of racial justice more vigorously in the 1960s and 1970s. No lawyer did more to defend the constitutional vision of the Warren Court and resist the efforts of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to undo its legacy. Throughout his life, Rauh continued to articulate a progressive vision of law and politics, ever confident that his brand of liberalism would become vital once again when the cycle of American politics took another turn.
Jacket design by Paula Newcomb
Jacket photograph: Joseph L. Rauh Jr. with President Lyndon B. Johnson. Courtesy of the Estate of Olie W. Rauh.
Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) was one of the foremost crusaders against black oppression. This engaging memoir tells of her private life as mother of a growing family as well as her public activities as teacher, lecturer, and journalist in her fight against attitudes and laws oppressing blacks.
"No student of black history should overlook Crusade for Justice."—William M. Tuttle, Jr., Journal of American History
"Besides being the story of an incredibly courageous and outspoken black woman in the face of innumerable odds, the book is a valuable contribution to the social history of the United States and to the literature of the women's movement as well."—Elizabeth Kolmer, American Quarterly
"[Wells was] a sophisticated fighter whose prose was as thorough as her intellect."—Walter Goodman, New York Times
"An illuminating narrative of a zealous, race-conscious, civic- and church-minded black woman reformer, whose life story is a significant chapter in the history of Negro-White relations."—Thelma D. Perry, Negro History Bulletin
Reconstruction in the South is a much studies and yet little understood dark epoch in the region’s history; in many areas it was marked by such violence as to have been in all but name guerrilla warfare. Death and Cross Plains is the history of one such clash, and the story of one of its casualties – William Luke.
Luke, born in Ireland, was a former Canadian minister fleeing a checkered past and perhaps seeking to redeem himself by service to the black freedmen of northern Alabama. In 1869 he took a teaching post at Talladega College, the only school for blacks in the area. Later taking the position of schoolteacher to the black railroad workers near Talladega, Luke found himself enmeshed in the web of racial antagonisms, xenophobia, and partisan conflict rampant in much of the South.
Death at Cross Plains follows the tragic course of William Luke’s life and death and vividly depicts the hatreds and failures that plunged the South into its darkest days.
The deeply personal story of a historic time in Chicago, Robert B. McKersie’s A Decisive Decade follows the unfolding action of the Civil Rights Movement as it played out in the Windy City. McKersie’s participation as a white activist for black rights offers a unique, firsthand viewpoint on the debates, boycotts, marches, and negotiations that would forever change the face of race relations in Chicago and the United States at large.
Described within are McKersie’s intimate observations on events as they developed during his participation in such historic occasions as the impassioned marches for open housing in Chicago; the campaign to end school segregation under Chicago Schools Superintendent Benjamin Willis; Operation Breadbasket’s push to develop economic opportunities for black citizens; and dialogs with corporations to provide more jobs for blacks in Chicago. In addition, McKersie provides up close and personal descriptions of the iconic Civil Rights leaders who spearheaded some of the most formative battles of Chicago’s Civil Rights movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Jesse Jackson, Timuel Black Jr. and W. Alvin Pitcher. The author illumines the tensions experienced by two major institutions in responding to the demands of the civil rights movement: the university and the church. Packed with historical detail and personal anecdotes of these history-making years, A Decisive Decade offers a never-before-seen perspective on one of our nation’s most tumultuous eras.
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Desert Rose details Coretta Scott King's upbringing in a family of proud, land-owning African Americans with a profound devotion to the ideals of social equality and the values of education, as well as her later role as her husband's most trusted confidant and advisor.
Coretta Scott King—noted author, human rights activist, and wife and partner of famed Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King Jr.—grew up in the rural Alabama Black Belt with her older sister, Edythe Scott Bagley. Bagley chronicles the sisters’ early education together at the Crossroads School and later at the progressive Lincoln School in Marion. She describes Coretta’s burgeoning talent for singing and her devotion to musical studies, and the sisters’ experiences matriculating at Antioch College, an all-white college far from the rural South. Bagley provides vivid insights into Coretta’s early passion for racial and economic justice, which lead to her involvement in the Peace Movement and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
As Coretta’s older sister, Edythe shared in almost all of Coretta’s many trials and tribulations. Desert Rose charts Coretta’s hesitance about her romance with Martin Luther King and the prospect of having to sacrifice her dream of a career in music to become a minister’s wife. Ultimately, Coretta chose to utilize her artistic gifts and singing voice for the Movement through the development and performance of Freedom Concerts. This book also charts Coretta’s own commitment and dedication, in the years that followed King’s death, to the causes of international civil rights, the antiapartheid movement, and the establishment of the King Center in Atlanta and the national King Holiday. Coretta’s devotion to activism, motherhood, and the movement led by her husband, and her courageous assumption of the legacy left in the wake of King’s untimely assassination, are wonderfully detailed in this intimate biography.
Du Bois and His Rivals
Raymond Wolters University of Missouri Press, 2002 Library of Congress E185.97.D73W65 2002 | Dewey Decimal 305.8960730092
W. E. B. Du Bois was the preeminent black scholar of his era. He was also a principal founder and for twenty-eight years an executive officer of the nation’s most effective civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Even though Du Bois was best known for his lifelong stance against racial oppression, he represented much more. He condemned the racism of the white world but also criticized African Americans for mistakes of their own. He opposed segregation but had reservations about integration. Today he would be known as a pluralist.
In Du Bois and His Rivals, Raymond Wolters provides a distinctive biography of this great pioneer of the American civil rights movement. Readers are able to follow the outline of Du Bois’s life, but the book’s main emphasis is on discrete scenes in his life, especially the controversies that pitted Du Bois against his principal black rivals. He challenged Booker T. Washington because he could not abide Washington’s conciliatory approach toward powerful whites. At the same time, Du Bois’s pluralism led him to oppose the leading separatists and integrationists of his day. He berated Marcus Garvey for giving up on America and urging blacks to pursue a separate destiny. He also rejected Walter White’s insistence that integration was the best way to promote the advancement of black people.
Du Bois felt that American blacks should be full-fledged Americans, with all the rights of other American citizens. However, he believed that they should also preserve and develop enough racial distinctiveness to enable them to maintain and foster a sense of racial identity, community, and pride. Du Bois and His Rivals shows that Du Bois stood for much more than protest against racial oppression. He was also committed to pluralism, and his pluralism emphasized the importance of traditional standards and of internal cooperation within the black community. Anyone interested in the civil rights movement, black history, or the history of the United States during the early twentieth century will find this book valuable.
"Father Groppi: Marching for Civil Rights" tells the story of Father James Groppi, a Catholic priest from Milwaukee, Wis., who stood up for civil rights in the 1960s and 1970s.
This important new addition to the Badger Biographies series for young readers also tells about a turbulent time in Wisconsin history and sheds light on the civil rights movement and its place in the North.
Growing up on the south side of Milwaukee as the son of Italian immigrants, young James Groppi learned early on what it felt like to be made fun of just because of who you are, and he learned to respect people from other races and ethnic groups. Later, while studying to become a priest, he saw the discrimination African Americans faced. It made him angry, and he vowed to do whatever he could to fight racism.
Father Groppi marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the civil rights movement. But he knew there was work to be done in his own city. In Milwaukee, he teamed up with the NAACP and other organizations, protesting discrimination and segregation wherever they saw it. It wasn't always easy, and Father Groppi and the other civil rights workers faced great challenges.
Alberta Henry (1920–2005) was born in a sharecropper’s shack in segregated Louisiana before moving with her family to Kansas where she grew up in a climate of hardship and hostile racial bigotry that forced second-class citizenship on African Americans.
Henry endured intolerance by leaning on her faith and her commitment to a cause that she believed God had called her to follow. When she came to Utah in 1949 she thought it would be a brief stay, but she ended up making it her home for more than fifty years. In Utah, Henry committed herself to helping all races, religions, and ethnic groups coexist in appreciation of each other. While Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X led the struggle for civil rights at a national level, Alberta Henry campaigned tirelessly for equality at a local level, talking at school board meetings, before city councils, and in the homes of her neighbors.
Henry was a member or officer of more than forty civic organizations and served for twelve years as president of the Salt Lake City branch of the NAACP, where she lobbied for civil rights, education, and justice. The dozens of awards and commendations she received speak to her accomplishments. While much of Henry’s story is told in her own words, Colleen Whitley provides expert and personal context to her speeches, writing, and interviews. The result is an exceptional first-person account of an African American woman leader and her role in the Civil Rights Movement in Utah.
When Fred Shuttlesworth suffered only a bump on the head in the 1956 bombing of his home, members of his church called it a miracle. Shuttlesworth took it as a sign that God would protect him on the mission that had made him a target that night. Standing in front of his demolished home, Shuttlesworth vigorously renewed his commitment to integrate Birmingham's buses, lunch counters, police force, and parks. The incident transformed him, in the eyes of Birmingham's blacks, from an up-and-coming young minister to a virtual folk hero and, in the view of white Birmingham, from obscurity to rabble-rouser extraordinaire.
From his 1956 founding of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights through the historic demonstrations of 1963, driven by a sense of divine mission, Shuttlesworth pressured Jim Crow restrictions in Birmingham with radically confrontational acts of courage. His intensive campaign pitted him against the staunchly segregationist police commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor and ultimately brought him to the side of Martin Luther King Jr. and to the inner chambers of the Kennedy White House.
First published in 1999, Andrew Manis's award-winning biography of "one of the nation's most courageous freedom fighters" demonstrates compellingly that Shuttleworth's brand of fiery, outspoken confrontation derived from his prophetic understanding of the pastoral role. Civil rights activism was tantamount to salvation in his understanding of the role of Christian minister.
The youngest of twenty children of sharecroppers in rural Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer witnessed throughout her childhood the white cruelty, political exclusion, and relentless economic exploitation that defined black existence in the Delta. In this intimate biography, Chana Kai Lee documents Hamer's lifelong crusade to empower the poor through collective action, her rise to national prominence as a civil rights activist, and the personal costs of her ongoing struggle to win a political voice and economic self-sufficiency for blacks in the segregated South.
Lee traces Hamer's early work as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in rural Mississippi, documenting the partial blindness she suffered after being arrested and beaten by local officials for leading a group of blacks to register for the vote. Hamer's dramatic appearance at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, where she led a group from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in a bid to unseat the all-white Mississippi delegation, brought both Hamer and the virtual powerlessness of black Mississippians to the nation's attention; but the convention also marked her first debilitating encounter with the middle class of the national civil rights movement.
Despite her national visibility, Hamer remained a militant grassroots leader who never stopped working for the betterment of her own community in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Among many local initiatives, she established the Freedom Farm Corporation, a revolutionary cooperative venture aimed at facilitating economic self- sufficiency for the rural poor.
Lee renders Hamer's acute political instincts, her rhetorical prowess, and her skill in retooling her past to serve strategic political purposes, as well as her deep frustration with a society that was willing to hold her up as an example of individual heroism but resisted her efforts at collective transformation. Offering a complex understanding of how racism, sexism, violence, and economic injustice intersected to spur the civil rights movement and to shape, and sometimes restrict, the role of women and poor people within it, Lee illuminates the abiding links between political activism and economic transformation.
The definitive biography of one of the most important civil rights activists of the twentieth century, For Freedom's Sake documents Fannie Lou Hamer's lifelong crusade to empower the poor through collective action, her rise to national prominence as a civil rights activist, and the personal costs of her ongoing struggle to win a political voice and economic self-sufficiency for blacks in the segregated South.
This first-hand account tells the story of turbulent civil rights era Atlanta through the eyes of a white upper-class woman who became an outspoken advocate for integration and racial equality.
As a privileged white woman who grew up in segregated Atlanta, Sara Mitchell Parsons was an unlikely candidate to become a civil rights agitator. After all, her only contacts with blacks were with those who helped raise her and those who later helped raise her children. As a young woman, she followed the conventional path expected of her, becoming the dutiful wife of a conservative husband, going to the country club, and playing bridge. But unlike many of her peers, Parsons harbored an increasing uneasiness about racial segregation.
In a memoir that includes candid diary excerpts, Parsons chronicles her moral awakening. With little support from her husband, she runs for the Atlanta Board of Education on a quietly integrationist platform and, once elected, becomes increasingly outspoken about inequitable school conditions and the slow pace of integration. Her activities bring her into contact with such civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife, Coretta Scott King. For a time, she leads a dual existence, sometimes traveling the great psychic distance from an NAACP meeting on Auburn Avenue to an all-white party in upscale Buckhead. She eventually drops her ladies' clubs, and her deepening involvement in the civil rights movement costs Parsons many friends as well as her first marriage.
Spanning sixty years, this compelling memoir describes one woman's journey to self-discovery against the backdrop of a tumultuous time in our country's history.
"Sara Parsons's efforts to integrate and improve schools and her attack on complacent white churches made her a pariah and resulted in the break-up of her marriage. . . . She was one of the South's first white elected officials who openly advocated racial equality.--Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Sara Parsons in the 1960's [was] the lone white member of the Atlanta school board to support integration. . . . Jimmy Carter may not have had the courage [then] to meet with Martin Luther King. But Ms. Parsons did. She met Dr. King on several occasions, even though each time it seemed to cost her another white friend.--New York Times
Examining the Mexican American civil rights movement through the public rhetoric of a veteran activist
Héctor P. García: Everyday Rhetoric and Mexican American Civil Rights examines the transition of Mexican Americans from political and social marginalization to civic inclusion after World War II. Focusing on the public rhetoric of veteran rights activist and physician Dr. Héctor P. García, a Mexican immigrant who achieved unprecedented influence within the U.S. political system, author Michelle Hall Kells provides an important case study in the exercise of influence, the formation of civic identity, and the acquisition of social power among this underrepresented group.
As a major influence in national twentieth-century civil rights reform, García effectively operated between Anglo and Mexican American sociopolitical structures. The volume illustrates how García, a decorated World War II veteran and founder of the American GI Forum in Texas in 1948, successfully engendered a discourse that crossed geographical, political, and cultural borders, forming associations with the working poor as well as with prominent national figures such as John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Through his rhetoric and action, García publicly revealed the plight of Mexican Americans, crossing class, regional, and racial lines to improve socioeconomic conditions for his people.
Héctor P. García, which is enhanced by sixteen illustrations, contributes to rhetorical, cultural, and historical studies and offers new scholarship establishing García’s role on the national front, effectively tracing Garcia’s legacy of resistance, the process of achieving enfranchisement, and the role of racism in the evolution from social marginalization to national influence.
Biography of a forgotten poet who used his name and influence to speak up for those on the margins of society.
Few surnames resonate in American history more than Beecher. The family’s abolitionist ministers, educators, and writers are central figures in the historical narrative of the United States. The Beechers’ influence was greatest in the nineteenth century, but the family story continued—albeit with less public attention—with a descendant who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, during the early twentieth century.
John Beecher (1904–1980) never had the public prominence of his famous ancestors, but as a poet, professor, sociologist, New Deal administrator, journalist, and civil rights activist, he spent his life fighting for the voiceless and oppressed with a distinct moral sensibility that reflected his self-identification as the twentieth-century torchbearer for his famous family. While John Beecher had many vocations in his lifetime, he always considered himself a poet and a teacher. Some critics have compared the populist elements of Beecher’s poetry to the work of Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg, but his writing never gained a broad audience or critical acclaim during his lifetime.
In Here I Stand:The Life and Legacy of John Beecher, Angela J. Smith examines Beecher’s writing and activism and places them in the broader context of American culture at pivotal points in the twentieth century. Employing his extensive letters, articles, unpublished poetry and prose, and audio interviews in addition to his numerous published books, Smith uncovers a record of public concerns in American history ranging from the plight of workers in 1920s steel mills to sharecroppers’ struggles during the Depression to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
On Sunday, March 7, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. and six hundred followers set out on foot from Selma, Alabama, bound for Montgomery to demand greater voting rights for African Americans. As they crossed the city’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, state and local policemen savagely set on the marchers with tear gas and billy clubs, an event now known as “Bloody Sunday” that would become one of the most iconic in American history.
King’s informal headquarters in Selma was the home of Dr. Sullivan and Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson and their young daughter, Jawana. The House by the Side of the Road is Richie Jean’s firsthand account of the private meetings King and his lieutenants, including Ralph David Abernathy and John Lewis, held in the haven of the Jackson home.
Sullivan Jackson was an African American dentist in Selma and a prominent supporter of the civil rights movement. Richie Jean was a close childhood friend of King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, a native of nearby Marion, Alabama. Richie Jean’s fascinating account narrates how, in the fraught months of 1965 that preceded the Voting Rights March, King and his inner circle held planning sessions and met with Assistant Attorney General John Doar to negotiate strategies for the event.
Just eight days after Bloody Sunday, President Lyndon Johnson made a televised addressed to a joint session of Congress on Monday, March 15. Jackson relates the intimate scene of King and his lieutenants watching as Johnson called the nation to dedicate itself to equal rights for all and ending his address with the words: “We shall overcome.” Five months later, Congress passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act on August 6.
The major motion picture Selma now commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In it, Niecy Nash and Kent Faulcon star as Sullivan and Richie Jean Jackson among a cast including Oprah Winfrey, Tom Wilkinson, and Cuba Gooding Jr. A gripping primary source, The House by the Side of the Road illuminates the private story whose public outcomes electrified the world and changed the course of American history.
Marian Alexander Spencer was born in 1920 in the Ohio River town of Gallipolis, Ohio, one year after the “Red Summer” of 1919 that saw an upsurge in race riots and lynchings. Following the example of her grandfather, an ex-slave and community leader, Marian joined the NAACP at thirteen and grew up to achieve not only a number of civic leadership firsts in her adopted home city of Cincinnati, but a legacy of lasting civil rights victories.
Of these, the best known is the desegregation of Cincinnati’s Coney Island amusement park. She also fought to desegregate Cincinnati schools and to stop the introduction of observers in black voting precincts in Ohio. Her campaign to raise awareness of industrial toxic-waste practices in minority neighborhoods was later adapted into national Superfund legislation.
In 2012, Marian’s friend and colleague Dot Christenson sat down with her to record her memories. The resulting biography not only gives us the life story of remarkable leader but encapsulates many of the twentieth century’s greatest struggles and advances. Spencer’s story will prove inspirational and instructive to citizens and students alike.
This book tells the story of Ivory Perry, a black worker and community activist who, for more than thirty years, has distributed the leaflets, carried the picket signs, and planned and participated in the confrontations that were essential to the success of protest movements. Using oral histories and extensive archival research, George Lipsitz examines the culture of opposition through the events of Perry’s life of commitment and illumines the social and political changes and conflicts that have convulsed the United States during the past fifty years.
Civil rights activist Medgar Wiley Evers was well aware of the dangers he would face when he challenged the status quo in Mississippi in the 1950s and '60s, a place and time known for the brutal murders of Emmett Till, Reverend George Lee, Lamar Smith, and others. Nonetheless, Evers consistently investigated the rapes, murders, beatings, and lynchings of black Mississippians and reported the horrid incidents to a national audience, all the while organizing economic boycotts, sit-ins, and street protests in Jackson as the NAACP's first full-time Mississippi field secretary. He organized and participated in voting drives and nonviolent direct-action protests, joined lawsuits to overturn state-supported school segregation, and devoted himself to a career path that eventually cost him his life. This biography of an important civil rights leader draws on personal interviews from Myrlie Evers-Williams (Evers's widow), his two remaining siblings, friends, grade-school-to-college schoolmates, and fellow activists to elucidate Evers as an individual, leader, husband, brother, and father. Extensive archival work in the Evers Papers, the NAACP Papers, oral history collections, FBI files, Citizen Council collections, and the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission Papers, to list a few, provides a detailed account of Evers's NAACP work and a clearer understanding of the racist environment that ultimately led to his murder.
Raised in the squalor of a New York tenement until he was 10 years old, Nelson Díaz saw his life change when his family moved to a brand-new high-rise project in West Harlem in the 1950s. That experience, along with lessons learned as the only Latino law student at Temple University, would drive him throughout his life as a lawyer and activist, fighting for the expansion of rights for all Americans.
“No soy de aquí ni de allá” is a mantra for Puerto Ricans who feel like foreigners wherever they are and who seek a place for themselves. In his inspiring autobiography, Not from Here, Not from There, Díaz tells the story of his struggles and triumphs as his perspective widened from the New York streets and law school classrooms to the halls of power in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Whether as a leader in economic development, a pioneer in court reform, or a champion of fair housing, Díaz has never stopped advocating for others. Díaz was happy to be the first Latino to “do something,” but he never wanted to be the last. This story of an outsider who worked his way to the inside offers powerful lessons on finding a place in the world by creating spaces where everyone is welcome.
Outside Agitator tells the dramatic, largely forgotten storybehind the 1965 killing of civil rights worker Jonathan Myrick "Jon" Daniels in Lowndes County, Alabama, detailing the lives of the killer and the victim. A white Episcopal seminary student from New Hampshire, Jon Daniels helped organize blacks in Selma during the events that led to the Selma-to-Montgomery march. In August 1965 he was fatally shot in neighboring Lowndes County by Tom Coleman, a highway department engineer and steadfast segregationist, who was later acquitted by an all-white jury.
Lowndes County was a bastion of white minority dominance. For half a century, no black had voted or served on a jury there. Known for the violence used by whites to maintain their control, "bloody" Lowndes presented Daniels and other civil rights workers with almost insurmountable obstacles. Tom Coleman, a Lowndes County native, represented the consensus among local whites that violent resistance to racial change was justified. To defend his community and to prevent change, he resorted to violence against "outside agitators."
Following the deaths of a score of other civil rights workers, the killing of Jon Daniels was in many ways the last atrocity of the first, southern, nonviolent phase of the Civil Rights movement. This exploration of how Daniels and Coleman came to be at opposite ends of a shotgun outside a county store captures the mechanics and emotions of forces promoting and resisting change in southern race relations. Charles Eagles reminds us that however representative Daniels and Coleman may have been of larger forces, they were nevertheless real individuals with distinctive personalities caught up in specific circumstances.
Virginia Foster Durr is the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, and she was raised in Birmingham during the early years of this century. She attended Wellesley for two years, until her family’s circumstances made it impossible for her to continue. Virginia’s sister Josephine married Hugo Black; and in 1926 Virginia married a young lawyer named Clifford Durr. The Durrs moved to Washington shortly after Roosevelt’s inauguration, and Clifford was one of the “bright young lawyers” whom the new president relied upon to draft the legislation establishing the New Deal. After World War II the Durrs moved to Denver, then to Montgomery, where Clifford became one of the few white lawyers to represent blacks in civil rights cases. During the Durrs’ Washington years Virginia had been active in the movement to abolish the poll tax and in to her liberal causes; and back in Montgomery, she shared Clifford’s commitment to the civil rights movement and served as an inspiration to liberals of both races.
Virginia Durr has succeeded in articulating the pleasures and the difficulties of growing up female in the vigorous young city of Birmingham; the broadening (and in some ways also restricting) of young women’s intellectual horizons and social life at Wellesley; and the excitement of the courtship and marriage of a proper young Southern girl of good family and poor circumstance. She brings to life the social and political climate of Washington during the New Deal and war years, where her close connection to Justice Black gave the Durrs access to people whom they might not have come to know otherwise. A victim of McCarthyism, Clifford returned with Virginia to Montgomery with no job and few prospects. Their decision to become engaged in the civil rights struggle was consistent with their lifelong commitment to follow their consciences, regardless of the social and economic consequences.
“Virginia Durr said it: there were three ways for a well brought-up young Southern white woman to go. She could be the actress, playing out the stereotype of the Southern belle. Gracious to ‘the colored help,’ flirtatious to her powerful father-in-law, and offering a sweet, winning smile to the world. In short, going with the wind. If she had a spark of independence or worse, creativity, she could go crazy—on the dark, shadowy street traveled by more than one Southern belle. Or she could be the rebel. She could step outside the magic circle, abandon privilege, and challenge this way of life. Ostracism, bruised of all sorts, and defamation would be her lot. Her reward would be a truly examined life. And a world she would otherwise never have known.” — from the Foreword by Studs Terkel
A. Philip Randolph's career as a trade unionist and civil rights activist fundamentally shaped the course of black protest in the mid-twentieth century. Standing alongside individuals such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey at the center of the cultural renaissance and political radicalism that shaped communities such as Harlem in the 1920s and into the 1930s, Randolph fashioned an understanding of social justice that reflected a deep awareness of how race complicated class concerns, especially among black laborers. Examining Randolph's work in lobbying for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, threatening to lead a march on Washington in 1941, and establishing the Fair Employment Practice Committee, Cornelius L. Bynum shows that Randolph's push for African American equality took place within a broader progressive program of industrial reform. Some of Randolph's pioneering plans for engineering change--which served as foundational strategies in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s--included direct mass action, nonviolent civil disobedience, and purposeful coalitions between black and white workers. Bynum interweaves biographical information on Randolph with details on how he gradually shifted his thinking about race and class, full citizenship rights, industrial organization, trade unionism, and civil rights protest throughout his activist career.
The first in-depth look at white people's activism in fighting racism during the past fifty years.
Not since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, when many white college students went south to fight against Jim Crow laws, has white antiracist activity held the public's attention. Yet there have always been white people involved in fighting racism. In this passionate work, Becky Thompson looks at white Americans who have struggled against racism, offering examples of both successes and failures, inspirations, practical philosophies, and a way ahead.
A Promise and a Way of Life weaves an account of the past half-century based on the life histories of thirty-nine people who have placed antiracist activism at the center of their lives. Through a rich and fascinating narrative that links individual experiences with social and political history, Thompson shows the ways, both public and personal, in which whites have opposed racism during several social movements: the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, multiracial feminism, the Central American peace movement, the struggle for antiracist education, and activism against the prison industry. Beginning with the diverse catalysts that started these activists on their journeys, this book demonstrates the contributions and limitations of white antiracism in key social justice movements.
Through these stories, crucial questions are raised: Does antiracist work require a repudiation of one's whiteness or can that identity be transformed through political commitment and alliances? What do white people need to do to undermine white privilege? What would it take to build a multiracial movement in which white people are responsible for creating antiracist alliances while not co-opting people of color?
Unique in its depth and thoroughness, A Promise and a Way of Life is essential for anyone currently fighting racism or wondering how to do so. Through its demonstration of the extraordinary personal and social transformations ordinary people can make, it provides a new paradigm for movement activity, one that will help to incite and guide future antiracist activism.
"Drawing on the stories of living people rather than on archives, Thompson finds the origins of white anti-racism not in the abolition movement of the early 1800s but in the civil rights movement of the 1950s South. For readers looking for an anti-racist interpretation of the feminist movement, the chapter on Multiracial Feminism is a must-read. By showing the various ways in which white people have become invested in anti-racist struggle, Thompson opens up a whole new world of ideas and practices located as 'white' but oriented toward social justice. For those of us stranded in the great white North, this book will be indispensable." Women's Review of Books
"Becky Thompson tells the life histories of 30 antiracist activists from the past half-century. An engaging, narrative style make this academic text accessible to the general reader." Reference and Research Book News
"Here is a fascinating collective portrait of an extraordinary group of white people who fought racism, often at great risk. Becky Thompson traces the background, the thinking, the actions of these people over a period of fifty years, as they participated in the most important social movements of our time. Her book is a valuable addition to the history of social movements in the 20th century." Howard Zinn
"A Promise and a Way of Life is a first: a detailed and highly engaging history of white people who have spent their lives fighting white supremacy, instead of embracing or ignoring it. Thompson provides dynamic new ways to understand the links among seemingly divergent movements such as Black Power and multiracial feminism. A Promise and a Way of Life is a groundbreaking, inspiring achievement." Barbara Smith, author of The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom
Becky Thompson is associate professor of sociology at Simmons College. She is the author of Mothering without a Compass (2000), A Hunger So Wide and So Deep (1994), and Beyond a Dream Deferred (1993).
These wide-ranging essays reveal the various roles played by southern rabbis in the struggle for black civil rights since Reconstruction
The study of black-Jewish relations has become a hotbed of controversy, especially with regard to the role played by Jewish leaders during the Civil Rights movement. Did these leaders play a pivotal role, or did many of them, especially in the South, succumb to societal pressure and strive to be accepted rather than risk being persecuted? If some of these leaders did choose a quieter path, were their reasons valid? And were their methods successful?
The contributors in this volume explore the motivations and subsequent behavior of rabbis in a variety of southern environments both before and during the civil rights struggle. Their research demonstrates that most southern rabbis indeed faced pressures not experienced in the North and felt the need to balance these countervailing forces to achieve their moral imperative.
Individually, each essay offers a glimpse into both the private and public difficulties these rabbis faced in their struggle to achieve good. Collectively, the essays provide an unparalleled picture of Jewish leadership during the civil rights era.
Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader documents the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, when SNCC and CORE workers and volunteers arrived in the Deep South to register voters and teach non-violence, and more than 60,000 black Mississippians risked everything to overturn a system that had brutally exploited them.
In the 44 original documents in this anthology, you’ll read their letters, eavesdrop on their meetings, shudder at their suffering, and admire their courage. You’ll witness the final hours of three workers murdered on the project’s first day, hear testimony by black residents who bravely stood up to police torture and Klan firebombs, and watch the liberal establishment betray them.
These vivid primary sources, collected by the Wisconsin Historical Society, provide both first-hand accounts of this astounding grassroots struggle as well as a broader understanding of the Civil Rights movement.
The selected documents are among the 25,000 pages about the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The manuscripts were collected in the mid-1960s, at a time when few other institutions were interested in saving the stories of common people in McComb or Ruleville, Mississippi. Most have never been published before.
Revisits the inspiring and heroic stories of the Freedom Riders, through their own words.
In May 1961, despite multiple Supreme Court rulings, segregation remained alive and well within the system of interstate travel. All across the American South, interstate buses as well as their travel facilities were divided racially. This blatant disregard for law and morality spurred the Congress of Racial Equality to send thirteen individuals—seven black, six white—on a harrowing bus trip throughout the South as a sign of protest.
These original riders were met with disapproval, arrests and violence along the way, but that did not stop the movement. That summer, more than four hundred Freedom Riders continued their journey—many of them concluding their ride at Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm, where they endured further abuses and indignities. As a result of the riders sacrifice, by November of 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission finally put an end to interstate commerce segregation, and in the process, elevated the riders to become a source of inspiration for other civil rights campaigns such as voter registration rights and school desegregation.
While much has been written on the Freedom Rides, far less has been published about the individual riders. Join award-winning author B. J. Hollars as he sets out on his own journey to meet them, retracing the historic route and learning the stories of as many surviving riders as he could. The Road South: Personal Stories of the Freedom Riders offers an intimate look into the lives and legacies of the riders. Throughout the book these civil rights veterans’ poignant, personal stories offer timely insights into America’s racial past and hopeful future.
Weaving the past with the present, Hollars aims to demystify the legendary journey, while also confronting more modern concerns related to race in America. The Road South is part memoir and part research-based journalism. It transcends the traditional textbook version of this historical journey to highlight the fascinating stories of the many riders—both black and white—who risked their lives to move the country forward.
Timuel Black is an acclaimed historian, activist, and storyteller. Sacred Ground: The Chicago Streets of Timuel Black chronicles the life and times of this Chicago legend.
Sacred Ground opens in 1919, during the summer of the Chicago race riot, when infant Black and his family arrive in Chicago from Birmingham, Alabama, as part of the first Great Migration. He recounts in vivid detail his childhood and education in the Black Metropolis of Bronzeville and South Side neighborhoods that make up his "sacred ground."
Revealing a priceless trove of experiences, memories, ideas, and opinions, Black describes how it felt to belong to this place, even when stationed in Europe during World War II. He relates how African American soldiers experienced challenges and conflicts during the war, illuminating how these struggles foreshadowed the civil rights movement. A labor organizer, educator, and activist, Black captures fascinating anecdotes and vignettes of meeting with famous figures of the times, such as Duke Ellington and Martin Luther King Jr., but also with unheralded people whose lives convey lessons about striving, uplift, and personal integrity.
Rounding out this memoir, Black reflects on the legacy of his friend and mentee, Barack Obama, as well as on his public works and enduring relationships with students, community workers, and some very influential figures in Chicago and the world.
This Bright Light of Ours offers a tightly focused insider’s view of the community-based activism that was the heart of the civil rights movement. A celebration of grassroots heroes, this book details through first-person accounts the contributions of ordinary people who formed the nonviolent army that won the fight for voting rights.
Combining memoir and oral history, Maria Gitin fills a vital gap in civil rights history by focusing on the neglected Freedom Summer of 1965 when hundreds of college students joined forces with local black leaders to register thousands of new black voters in the rural South. Gitin was an idealistic nineteen-year-old college freshman from a small farming community north of San Francisco who felt called to action when she saw televised images of brutal attacks on peaceful demonstrators during Bloody Sunday, in Selma, Alabama.
Atypical among white civil rights volunteers, Gitin came from a rural low-income family. She raised funds to attend an intensive orientation in Atlanta featuring now-legendary civil rights leaders. Her detailed letters include the first narrative account of this orientation and the only in-depth field report from a teenage Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project participant.
Gitin details the dangerous life of civil rights activists in Wilcox County, Alabama, where she was assigned. She tells of threats and arrests, but also of forming deep friendships and of falling in love. More than four decades later, Gitin returned to Wilcox County to revisit the people and places that she could never forget and to discover their views of the “outside agitators” who had come to their community. Through conversational interviews with more than fifty Wilcox County residents and former civil rights workers, she has created a channel for the voices of these unheralded heroes who formed the backbone of the civil rights movement.
Reies López Tijerina, one of the Four Horsemen of the Chicano Movement, led the land grant struggle by Hispanos in the 1960s to recover the lands granted to their ancestors by Spain and Mexico and then guaranteed by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In his struggle, Tijerina became the target of local and state law enforcement officials in New Mexico and the FBI nationwide. José Angel Gutiérrez meticulously examines thousands of pages of FBI documents, interview transcripts, newspaper reports, and other written accounts on Tijerina and the Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres, the organization of land grant claimants led by Tijerina in New Mexico. The primary source materials that document the U.S. government’s attempts to destroy Tijerina, his family, and his followers complement the secondary literature on Tijerina and his efforts as the premier leader of the land grant recovery movement. Threaded through the volume are glimpses into the special personal relationship between Tijerina and the author.
White Men Challenging Racism is a collection of first-person narratives chronicling the compelling experiences of thirty-five white men whose efforts to combat racism and fight for social justice are central to their lives. Based on interviews conducted by Cooper Thompson, Emmett Schaefer, and Harry Brod, these engaging oral histories tell the stories of the men’s antiracist work. While these men discuss their accomplishments with pride, they also talk about their mistakes and regrets, their shortcomings and strategic blunders. A foreword by James W. Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, provides historical context, describing antiracist efforts undertaken by white men in America during past centuries.
Ranging in age from twenty-six to eighty-six, the men whose stories are presented here include some of the elder statesmen of antiracism work as well as members of the newest generation of activists. They come from across the United States—from Denver, Nashville, and San Jose; rural North Carolina, Detroit, and Seattle. Some are straight; some are gay. A few—such as historian Herbert Aptheker, singer/songwriter Si Kahn, Stetson Kennedy (a Klan infiltrator in the 1940s), and Richard Lapchick (active in organizing the sports community against apartheid)—are relatively well known; most are not. Among them are academics, ministers, police officers, firefighters, teachers, journalists, union leaders, and full-time community organizers. They work with Latinos and African-, Asian-, and Native-Americans. Many ground their work in spiritual commitments. Their inspiring personal narratives—whether about researching right-wing groups, organizing Central American immigrants, or serving as pastor of an interracial congregation—connect these men with one another and with their allies in the fight against racism in the United States.
All authors’ royalties go directly to fund antiracist work. To read excerpts from the book, please visit http://www.whitemenchallengingracism.com/