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.
African Americans in the Furniture City is unique not only in terms of its subject, but also for its framing of the African American struggle for survival, civil rights, and community inside a discussion of the larger white community. Examining the African-American community of Grand Rapids, Michigan between 1850 and 1954, Randal Maurice Jelks uncovers the ways in which its members faced urbanization, responded to structural racism, developed in terms of occupations, and shaped their communal identities.
Focusing on the intersection of African Americans’ nineteenth-century cultural values and the changing social and political conditions in the first half of the twentieth century, Jelks pays particularly close attention to the religious community’s influence during their struggle toward a respectable social identity and fair treatment under the law. He explores how these competing values defined the community’s politics as it struggled to expand its freedoms and change its status as a subjugated racial minority.
Though the activities of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were unified in their common idea of resistance to oppression, these groups fought their battles on multiple fronts. The NAACP filed lawsuits and aggressively lobbied Congress and state legislatures, while Martin Luther King Jr. and SCLC challenged the racial status quo through nonviolent mass action, and the SNCC focused on community empowerment activities. In Agitations, Kevin Anderson studies these various activities in order to trace the ideological foundations of these groups and to understand how diversity among African Americans created multiple political strategies.
Agitations goes beyond the traditionally acknowledged divide between integrationist and accommodationist wings of African American politics to explore the diverse fundamental ideologies and strategic outcomes among African American activists that still define, influence, and complicate political life today.
Alabama’s great civil rights events in a compact and accessible narrative, paired with a practical guide to Alabama’s preserved civil rights sites and monuments
No other state has embraced and preserved its civil rights history more thoroughly than Alabama. Nor is there a place where that history is richer. Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail tells of Alabama’s great civil rights events, as well as its lesser-known moments, in a compact and accessible narrative, paired with a practical guide to Alabama’s preserved civil rights sites and monuments.
In this history of Alabama’s civil rights movement, Cradle of Freedom (University of Alabama Press, 2004), Frye Gaillard contends that Alabama played the lead role in a historic movement that made all citizens of the nation, black and white, more free. This book, geared toward the casual traveler and the serious student alike, showcases in a vividly illustrated and compelling manner, valuable and rich details. It provides a user-friendly, graphic tool for the growing number of travelers, students, and civil rights pilgrims who visit the state annually.
The story of the civil rights movement in Alabama is told city by city, region by region, and town by town, with entries on Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma, Tuscaloosa, Tuskegee, and Mobile, as well as chapters on the Black Belt and the Alabama hill country. Smaller but important locales such as Greensboro, Monroeville, and Scottsboro are included, as are more obscure sites like Hale County’s Safe House Black History Museum and the birthplace of the Black Panther Party in Lowndes County
This is the story of how rural Black people struggled against the oppressive sharecropping system of the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta during the first half of the twentieth century. Here, white planters forged a world of terror and poverty for Black workers, one that resembled the horrific deprivations of the African Congo under Belgium’s King Leopold II.
Delta planters did not cut off the heads and hands of their African American workers but, aided by local law enforcement, they engaged in peonage, murder, theft, and disfranchisement. As individuals and through collective struggle, in conjunction with national organizations like the NAACP and local groups like the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union, Black men and women fought back, demanding a just return for their crops and laying claim to a democratic vision of citizenship. Their efforts were amplified by the two world wars and the depression, which expanded the mobility and economic opportunities of Black people and provoked federal involvement in the region.
Nan Woodruff shows how the freedom fighters of the 1960s would draw on this half-century tradition of protest, thus expanding our standard notions of the civil rights movement and illuminating a neglected but significant slice of the American Black experience.
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.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) arrived in Arkansas in October 1962 at the request of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, the state affiliate of the Southern Regional Council. SNCC efforts began with Bill Hansen, a young white Ohioan--already an early veteran of the civil rights movement--who traveled to Little Rock in the early sixties to help stimulate student sit-in movements promoting desegregation. Thanks in large part to SNCC's bold initiatives, most of Little Rock's public and private facilities were desegregated by 1963, and in the years that followed many more SNCC volunteers rushed to the state to set up projects across the Arkansas Delta to help empower local people to take a stand against racial discrimination. In the five short years before it disbanded, the SNCC's Arkansas Project played a pivotal part in transforming the state, yet this fascinating branch of the national organization has barely garnered a footnote in the history of the civil rights movement. This collection serves as a corrective by bringing articles on SNCC's activities in Arkansas together for the first time, by providing powerful firsthand testimonies, and by collecting key historical documents from SNCC's role in the region's emergence from the slough of southern injustice.
Robert L. Green, a friend and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., served as education director for King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference during a crucial period in Civil Rights history, and—as a consultant for many of the nation’s largest school districts—he continues to fight for social justice and educational equity today.
This memoir relates previously untold stories about major Civil Rights campaigns that helped put an end to voting rights violations and Jim Crow education; explains how Green has helped urban school districts improve academic achievement levels; and explains why this history should inform our choices as we attempt to reform and improve American education. Green’s quest began when he helped the Kennedy Administration resolve a catastrophic education-related impasse and has continued through his service as one of the participants at an Obama administration summit on a current academic crisis.
It is commonly said that education is the new Civil Rights battlefield. Green’s memoir, At the Crossroads of Fear and Freedom: The Fight for Social and Educational Justice, helps us understand that educational equity has always been a central objective of the Civil Rights movement.
When Karl Lutze arrived in Oklahoma in 1945, he stepped into another world. A newly ordained clergyman born in Wisconsin, he was a young white man assigned to minister among Muskogee’s African American community. He soon found that in the South, crosses were as likely to be burned as revered. His recollections of postwar Oklahoma provide a compelling testament to the era’s racial conflict and some steps taken toward its resolution.
Awakening to Equality offers a unique perspective on an often-violent era that witnessed the gradual dismantling of segregation. Serving congregations in Muskogee and Tulsa, Lutze encountered a cross section of both communities—from the white and black power brokers to the most disempowered black and biracial families—and a stratified society buttressed by intimidation, cross burnings, and bombs. His activism in the Urban League and other local civil rights organizations gave him firsthand experience with forces moving toward change, as well as with the more entrenched forces resisting it.
Blending personal anecdotes and recollections of key players in this unfolding drama, Lutze puts a human face on historical and journalistic accounts of social change during the crucial early years of the civil rights movement. He takes readers back to small-town and urban Oklahoma in a time when African Americans were beginning to challenge segregation in Muskogee’s public transportation and a handful of liberal whites were trying to move their communities toward desegregation. Throughout this rich memoir, we meet actual people creating a future—one that involved the very redefinition of America.
More than a view of an earnest young clergyman trying to grow beyond the racial and social limitations of the church of his day, Awakening to Equality also depicts the struggles of Lutze’s own denomination to overcome its earlier accommodation of racism. Lutze’s success in his ministries made his achievements a model for mission work among African Americans and led to his appointment in 1959 first as field secretary and then shortly thereafter as executive director of the Lutheran Human Relations Association, a pioneering civil rights organization. Simultaneously, he taught classes as Associate Professor of Theology at Valparaiso University.
Lutze not only witnessed important events but also participated in them and found that his entire career was shaped by the experience. Awakening to Equality is a moving story that captures the real-life education of a prominent clergyman during a critical period in American life.