This is the story of the drive to free the American South from the shackles of legally sanctioned racial segregation. In a lively and compact narrative, John Salmond sets the scene with the first stirrings of revolt prompted by the New Deal and the experiences of blacks in World War II. He then concentrates on the years between the 1954 Supreme Court decision overturning segregated public schools and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the last of the civil rights statutes. Martin Luther King, Jr., plays a central role in the book, for as Mr. Salmond notes, he came to symbolize the moral trajectory of the “movement.” Yet there were many players in this drama, not all of them in agreement with King’s philosophy or tactics, and the author expertly assesses their contributions. “My Mind Set on Freedom” traces the hesitant reaction of the federal government to growing pressures, and the eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mr. Salmond explains why the movement finally collapsed and, in a concluding chapter, shows how the civil rights revolution transformed the American South. His book brings a new clarity to our understanding of this momentous struggle.
A fine, well-rounded history.... This makes a fine introduction for any interested in civil rights events.
Journal of American History
A lively and compact narrative...any curious reader will be well served by this tightly organized book.
- Publisher's Weekly
Can the U.S. Civil Rights movement be captured in less than 200 pages? Salmond, an Australian history professor and author of five previous books including Gastonia, 1929, shows that it can. From the anti-segregation landmark Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 to the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and the subsequent passage of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, Salmond packs it all in. A brief preface and dense first chapter set the stage, beginning at the end of the Civil War. From 1954 on, Salmond manages a surprising amount of detail in such a small space. King is the central figure, as seems fitting, but other major and minor players are given their due. The book's thematic chapters inevitably overlap with the overall chronological arrangement, resulting in occasional repetitions. Thus, Ella Baker founds SNCC about a third of the way through and then again 20 pages later, etc. The concluding chapter assesses the movement's impact on the Souththe main setting for most of the actionbut northern and western states are scarcely even mentioned. Salmond's commentary throughout is astute but unobtrusive, always returning to the larger picture when analyzing the impact of a demonstration or speech or vote. Most impressive is his ability to capture excitement, anger and fear in such a slim volume. If you're after footnotes and minutiaeand photographskeep looking. But this condensed history, based on an extensive bibliography, is a powerful education that deserves a wide audience. (May)
John A. Salmond is professor of American history at La Trobe University in Australia. He has written widely on Southern history and is author of Gastonia, 1929: The Conscience of a Lawyer; and A Southern Rebel.
Part 1 Preface ix Part 2 THE GATHERING STORM 3 Chapter 3 First legal challenges. The New Deal. Regional protest groups. Local organizations. The Emmett Till case. The Brown decision announced. Part 4 THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR 27 Chapter 5 Reaction to the Brown decision. Autherine Lucy. Crisis at Little Rock. Massive resistance. James Meredith at Ole Miss. George Wallace and the University of Alabama. Part 6 "I HAVE A DREAM" 51 Chapter 7 The Montgomery Bus Boycott. The rise of martin Luther King, Jr. King's philosophy. The formation of SCLC. Failure at Albany. The Birmingham campaign. Kennedy's involvement. The March on Washington. Part 8 "SITTING-IN FOR JUSTICE, RIDING FOR FREEDOM" 81 Chapter 9 The Greensboro movement. The movement spreads. Freedom Rides. Origins of SNCC. The Voting Rights campaign. "Freedom Summer." Malcolm X. Part 10 THE NATIONAL RESPONSE 106 Chapter 11 The Eisenhower administration. The election of 1960. Kennedy and civil rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. White backlash. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic party. The election of 1964. Part 12 THE END OF THE MOVEMENT 127 13 The Selma campaign. The Voting Rights Act of 1965. The end of school segregation. Collapse of the movement. "Black power." King's Chicago sojourn. The "Poor People's campaign." The death of Martin Luther King. Part 14 THE NEW SOUTH 149 Chapter 15 Effect of the Voting Rights Act. Black political participation. School desegregation and its effects. Southern justice. The wealth disparity. King's legacy. Part 16 A Note on Sources 165 Part 17 Index 169