Education of a Black Radical: A Southern Civil Rights Activist's Journey, 1959-1964

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Overview

"A strong, uncompromising voice that dreams of a better America, Judge Bailey has experienced the ugliness of both racism and fear. Yet he has not stepped back. What a wonderful life to share." -- Nikki Giovanni, from her Foreword

When four black college students refused to leave the whites-only lunch counter of a Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth's on February 1, 1960, they set off a wave of similar protests among black college students across the South. Memphis native D'Army Bailey, the freshman class president at Southern University -- the largest predominantly black college in the nation -- soon joined with his classmates in their own battle against segregation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In The Education of a Black Radical, Bailey details his experiences on the front lines of the black student movement of the early 1960s, providing a rare firsthand account of the early days of America's civil rights struggle and a shining example of one man's struggle to uphold the courageous principles of liberty, justice, and equality.

A natural leader, Bailey delivered fiery speeches at civil rights rallies, railed against school officials' capitulation to segregation, joined a sit-in at the Greyhound bus station, and picketed against discriminatory hiring practices at numerous Baton Rouge businesses. On December 15, 1961, he marched at the head of two thousand Southern University students seven miles from campus to downtown Baton Rouge to support fellow students jailed for picketing. Baton Rouge police dispersed the peaceful crowd with dogs and tear gas and arrested many participants. After Bailey led a class boycott to protest the administration's efforts to quell the lingering unrest on campus, Southern University summarily expelled him.

After his ejection, Bailey continued his academic journey north to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where liberal white students had established a scholarship for civil rights activists. Bailey sustained and expanded his activism in the North, and he provides invaluable eyewitness accounts of many major events from the civil rights era, including the protests in Washington D.C.'s financial district during the summer of 1963 and the gripping violence and arrests in Baltimore later that year. He sheds new light on the 1963 March on Washington by exploring the political forces that seized the march and changed its direction.

Labeled "subversive" and a "black nationalist militant" by the FBI, Bailey crossed paths with many visionary activists. In riveting detail, Bailey recalls several days he spent hosting Malcolm X as a guest speaker at Clark, hanging out with Abbie Hoffman in the early days of the Worsester Student Movement, and personal interactions with other civil rights icons, including the Reverend Will D. Campbell, Anne Braden, James Meredith, Tom Hayden, and future congressmen Barney Frank, John Lewis, and Allard Lowenstein.

D'Army Bailey gives voice to a generation of student foot soldiers in the civil rights movement. Moving, powerful, and intensely personal, The Education of a Black Radical offers an inspirational tale of hope and a courageous stand for social change. Moreover, it introduces an invigorating role model for a new generation of activists taking up the racial challenges of the twenty-first century.

LSU Press

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Editorial Reviews

Michael A. Fletcher
Bailey offers a personal story of his life as a cog in what we have come to know as the civil rights movement. His book isn't a tour of the familiar triumphs and tragedies in places like Greensboro, Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham and Little Rock. Instead, it is the tale of lesser-known battles that made the movement a movement. It is also a revealing story of one man's awakening to the call of his times.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Bailey, now a Tennessee circuit court judge, was one of “hundreds of student leaders” expelled from black Southern colleges in the 1960s for political activities. A scholarship for expelled Southern students led him north to Clark University, where his education and activism continued as he realized that “the North wasn't miraculously more rational or egalitarian than the South.” By his senior year, he was on the front lines at the demonstrations at Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Baltimore (July 1963), participating in the March on Washington a month later, but with reservations (“the original idea for the march so dissipated that the final gathering seemed more like a picnic than protest”). In focusing tightly on those “foot soldier” years that shaped his adult convictions, “the story of my life as a college student caught up in the movement,” Bailey takes the reader inside the student debates and deliberations, the organizing and strategizing activities of the early '60s, adding a valuable dimension to the history of the civil rights movement. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807134764
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

D'Army Bailey is a circuit court judge in Memphis, Tennessee. After graduating from Clark University, he graduated from Yale University Law School and served as a radical city councilman in Berkeley, California. In 1991, he founded the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, assassination. He is also the author of Mine Eyes Have Seen: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Journey.

LSU Press

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