My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience

Overview

The Historic Struggle for Civil Rights has revolutionized every aspect of American life -- and is still shaping what it means to be free in a fast-changing global society. In My Soul Looks Back in Wonder, bestselling author and Emmy-winning correspondent Juan Williams presents the dramatic and uplifting stories of men and women who have been profoundly transformed by their experiences on the front lines of freedom. Meet Jesse Epps, who witnesses the cold-blooded murder of a black man who refused to step aside for...
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Overview

The Historic Struggle for Civil Rights has revolutionized every aspect of American life -- and is still shaping what it means to be free in a fast-changing global society. In My Soul Looks Back in Wonder, bestselling author and Emmy-winning correspondent Juan Williams presents the dramatic and uplifting stories of men and women who have been profoundly transformed by their experiences on the front lines of freedom. Meet Jesse Epps, who witnesses the cold-blooded murder of a black man who refused to step aside for the white "town boss" -- and then channels his rage into political action. Or Endesha Holland, a former prostitute whose chance run-in with civil rights icon Robert Moses in Mississippi sets her on a harrowing journey that leads to a Ph.D. Or Diane Wilson, a Texas fisherwoman who, inspired by the struggles of Vietnamese shrimpers, launches a crusade to save the Gulf Coast from big-time polluters. Published on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, My Soul Looks Back in Wonder is an intimate portrait of America at its best. As Juan Williams writes, "In these pages you will meet extraordinary individuals who tapped into their personal power to become agents of change. They are those rare souls who, through sacrifice and risk, dared take direct action to create a better America. They are American history."
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Editorial Reviews

Alicia L. Young
Individual transformation is the organizing theme that holds together the 33 personal narratives Williams has compiled in My Soul Looks Back in Wonder. The speakers' rhythms lend texture to the lives they recount.
The Washington Post
Booklist
More than 30 people tell personal stories about the nonviolent struggle for civil rights, then and now, not only the leaders but also ordinary citizens who bear witness to “transforming moments” when they suddenly found the courage to try to change things. David Dinkins, New York City’s first black mayor, served with the U.S. Marines in World War II; at home, he had to use the back of the bus. A white woman remembers herself as a child after the Birmingham murders (“My worst fear was that my father might be a member of the Klan”). David Halberstam provides an excellent overview; Williams’ brief, clear notes introduce each eyewitness account; and the combination of analysis and intimacy with powerful documentary photos makes for gripping narrative. Best of all are the connections with contemporary struggles for equality, including those of immigrants, the poor, and the disabled. Marion Wright Edelman’s final impassioned essay speaks for the millions of all races who continue to be “left behind in our land of plenty.— (May 15, 2004 issue)
Publishers Weekly
Part of the Voices of Civil Rights project, a collaboration between AARP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights to build an oral archive, this book aims (and sometimes strains) to link the African-American struggle for freedom to others in its wake. Among blacks, we hear from Jesse Epps, who helped with the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike; journalist Vernon Jarrett, who covered a 1946 Chicago race riot where a mob tried to kill some black veterans; and Carol Swann, one of two black students to integrate the eighth grade in Richmond, Va. Among whites, we meet Diane McWhorter, who grew up white and upper-class in Birmingham, only to write a searing history of her hometown during the Civil Rights era, and Rachelle Horowitz, who worked closely with Bayard Rustin, organizer of the famed 1963 March on Washington. Less fitting are the stories of Sammy Lee, the first Asian-American to win an Olympic gold medal, who had to endure racism from his own coach, and of Jim Dickinson, a white record producer in Memphis who witnessed the black influence on rock music. While activists for Mexican-American rights and the environment are certainly admirable, here they don't link their work to the Civil Rights movement in the way, for example, a disability rights activist and gay Congressman Barney Frank do. Copious b&w photos evoke the Civil Rights era as well as some interview subjects. While Williams, an author and NPR senior correspondent, gets the authorial credit, he acknowledges that a team of reporters did the interviews. While this is a serviceable introduction, more focused oral histories are more rewarding. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402714153
  • Publisher: Sterling
  • Publication date: 5/1/2004
  • Series: AARP Series
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Juan Williams is the Senior Correspondent for NPR’s Morning Edition and author of the bestselling Eyes on the Prize and the widely acclaimed biography, Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary. He has won an Emmy award for TV documentary writing.

David Halberstam is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, historian, and author of many bestsellers including The Best and the Brightest, Freedom Riders, and The Teammates.

Marian Wright Edelman is the President of the Children’s Defense Fund and author of The Measure of Our Success.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii
Foreword xvii
Introduction: The Soul of Change 1
Section I The Weight
[1] I Am a Man 19
[2] A Dream Is a Good Place to Start 25
[3] King of the Blues 31
[4] Twisted Steel and Sex Appeal 37
[5] Gentleman of the Press 40
[6] Skin Dive 44
[7] American Gandhi 48
[8] The Birth of Elvis 55
[9] The Jump-off Point 60
[10] "Like Little Tortures Each Day" 65
Section II We Shall Not Be Moved
[11] A Blinding Flash Opened Our Eyes 75
[12] Justice Never Sleeps 79
[13] The Veil of Amnesia 84
[14] Heaven Can Wait 92
[15] Cracking the System 98
[16] Louisiana Moon 104
[17] Wake Up, Washington! 111
[18] The Brutal Truth 118
[19] Mother Courage 125
[20] Hour of Power 129
[21] Love Story in Black and White 134
[22] Hard-Wired for Freedom 141
[23] Help from on High 148
[24] At History's Elbow 153
Section III The Wings of the Future
[25] Founding Sisters 161
[26] Unprincipled Principal 167
[27] Shooting for Big Fish 173
[28] Wheels of Progress 178
[29] Threads in the Civil Rights Quilt 182
[30] Rewriting the Lies 188
[31] The Latino Underground Railroad 192
[32] A More Perfect Union 199
[33] A Living Hope 203
Afterword 211
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2006

    Cutting across the political spectrum

    With one notable exception, Williams has presented throught he eyes of many in the Civil Rights Movement, the dark history of segregation. If we could only drop the hyphens and truly live out 'the Dream' Martin Luther King had entreatied. [The one notable exception in his book depicting the struggles of minorities is the inclusion of a group defined by its behavior, which detracts from the common theme presented throughout most of the book]. I remember being asked as a child by a kid a few years older than me who my favorite baseball player was. I told him it was Willie Mays and he derided me because he was a Negro. At the age of 7, I had no clue of what he meant until he started pointing out differences on his stack of baseball cards. And that innocence is something all of us should possess. This book is worth the read and you can skip the chapter which is out of place.

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