Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama

Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama

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by Wayne Greenhaw
     
 

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Shortly after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Ku Klux Klan--determined to keep segregation as the way of life in Alabama--staged a resurgence, and the strong-armed leadership of governor George C. Wallace, who defied the new civil rights laws, empowered the Klan's most violent members. As Wallace’s power grew, however, blacks began

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Overview

Shortly after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Ku Klux Klan--determined to keep segregation as the way of life in Alabama--staged a resurgence, and the strong-armed leadership of governor George C. Wallace, who defied the new civil rights laws, empowered the Klan's most violent members. As Wallace’s power grew, however, blacks began fighting back in the courthouses and schoolhouses, as did young southern lawyers like Charles “Chuck” Morgan, who became the ACLU’s southern director; Morris Dees, who cofounded the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Bill Baxley, Alabama attorney general, who successfully prosecuted the bomber of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and legally halted some of Wallace’s agencies designed to slow down integration.

Fighting the Devil in Dixie is the first book to tell this story in full, from the Klan’s kidnappings, bombings, and murders of the 1950s to Wallace running for his fourth term as governor in the early 1980s, asking forgiveness and winning with the black vote.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[The book] does more than take you behind the picket lines, along the dark country roads and under the white hoods of the civil rights struggle. It takes you inside its very skin, and inside the South's broken heart."  —Rick Bragg, author, All Over But the Shoutin' and Ava's Man

“Wayne Greenhaw writes about civil rights with a journalist’s skills, the ease of a natural-born storyteller, an insider’s perspective, and a sensitive Southerner’s understanding. He was there during the quintessential events of the modern movement, and now you can be too. I recommend it.” —Julian Bond, civil rights leader and former chairman of the NAACP

“Wayne Greenhaw has long been the dean of Alabama journalism--the oracle for visiting national reporters in search of The Story. It’s no surprise, then, that his account of the progressives who took on the state’s racist status quo is authoritative, intimate, and gripping. A valuable addition to the civil rights bibliography.” —Diane McWhorter, author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama; The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution

“Wayne Greenhaw’s book is very nearly indispensable for people who study the South. This is an Alabama story, but it spreads far beyond its hearth and home.” —Roy Reed, former reporter for the New York Times

“[This is] the dramatic story of the brave, determined black and white Southerners who took on the haters in Alabama and, against all odds, turned the tide against them. It is an intimate, knowledgeable and overdue account, heartening in its reminder that it is as possible as it is necessary to confront and overcome evil in your own backyard.” —Hodding Carter III, journalist, politician, and educator

"Fighting the Devil in Dixie is a major addition to the historic literature of the Southern Civil Rights movement. As an Alabama journalist, Wayne Greenhaw was an eye witness to events that changed America. With this book, he richly fulfills Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s teaching that we must all bear witness for justice." —Howell Raines, author of My Soul is Rested

“This is such a fresh take on the civil rights struggle. Wayne Greenhaw grew up living and then covering all of this, reporting the good fight then, and now memorably documenting it in this wonderful book.” —Paul Stekler, director, George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire

"Combin[es] personal memories with a wealth of sources . . . [this book] chronicles one of the great victories in America's ongoing struggle for social justice."  —BookPage

Library Journal
Veteran Alabama journalist and prolific author Greenhaw takes readers on a journey behind the scenes of the civil rights struggle in Alabama. Tapping into his personal experiences growing up in segregated south Alabama and his connections to those on both sides of the struggle, he weaves the story of individuals, both black and white, who worked at the local level to banish segregation from their home state. He includes Morris Dees, cofounder of the Southern Poverty Law Center; civil rights attorney Charles Morgan Jr.; and Bill Baxley, who as Alabama's attorney general in the 1970s prosecuted Klansman Robert Chambliss for his part in the Birmingham church bombing. Against the backdrop of national events are the personal stories—Greenhaw writes of watching in disgust as his cousins marched in a KKK demonstration; he left his church over the congregation's treatment of black guests and its firing of the minister for inviting them. VERDICT While Greenhaw's work is a scholarly account based on interviews, court records, and newspaper articles, his journalistic style adds readability and poignancy. Overall this is highly recommended; an important addition to the civil rights record.—Lisa A. Ennis, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib.
Kirkus Reviews

An eyewitness record of the early brave incursions into the entrenched white racism in the Deep South.

A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., whose cousins could be seen marching in the local Ku Klux Klan parades in the 1950s, former Alabama Journal and Montgomery Adviser journalist Greenhaw (A Generous Life: W. James Samford, Jr., 2009, etc.) made a stand when he was 16 years old against bigotry in his own church and family. From 1965 to 1976, he covered politics and civil rights for theJournal, during the period when the Klan had galvanized violently after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gov. George Wallace crusaded across the country with chants of "Segregation Forever!" and Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. The author moves more or less chronologically, beginning with the fallout from Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and the "Not Guilty" verdict delivered on two Klansmen accused of the bombing of Montgomery's First Baptist Church in 1957, and concluding with Wallace's seeking forgiveness from the congregation of King's former church in 1982. Greenhaw navigates through the explosive events that spurred a sea change in race relations, encompassing both the villains—e.g., Robert "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss, who supplied the explosives responsible for many of the bombings, including the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963—and the numerous heroes, such as the sole early black lawyers in Selma, J.L. Chestnut Jr. and Orzell Billingsley; attorney Charles Morgan in Birmingham; the intrepid Freedom Fighters, demonstrators and student writers for theSouthern Courier; and Morris "Bubba" Dees Jr., who moved from representing racists to ardent civil-rights lawyer and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The author skillfully weaves a rich historical tapestry from his deeply engaged, firsthand observations.

Impressively captures stark, stunning history in the making.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781569763452
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
01/01/2011
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
922,271
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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