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Posted June 5, 2008
I became interested in this book when I heard the author, Charles Cobb Jr. interviewed on NPR¿s ¿Tell Me More¿ with Michel Martin. Cobb is a veteran of the civil rights movement and a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists. He spoke about sitting on the steps of a middle school in Medgar Evers¿ old neighborhood, across from the Fannie Lou Hamer Library, trying to engage some kids in conversation about the movement in Mississippi. When he told them he¿d known Mrs. Hamer, a little boy said in amazement ¿YOU were alive back then?!¿ That¿s when he realized the era was fading into ancient history, viewed as a mass movement led by a few charismatic and long dead leaders. This book - part memoir, part travel guide, part history book - is intended to capture the deeper meaning of the fight for civil rights, community grassroots organizing and thousands of independent acts of courage reaching further back than the 1960¿s...in fact, he said, the movement probably began as soon as the first African stepped off the ship in chains and began thinking of how to escape. With Cobb as our personal guide we travel through Washington D.C. and eight Southern states. But this is so much more than just a visitor¿s guide to historic sites, museums and plaques. Nearly every page is graced with photos, quotes from interviews, songs, letters, or key documents. We get to know the men and women not mentioned in the ¿Civil Rights Canon,¿ the everyday yet heroic people fighting for justice and equality in their own back yards. Academicians will be happy with the careful citing of sources in end notes general readers will be delighted with the compelling narrative flow. It¿s the sort of book I find myself reading twice: first skimming through to read all the fascinating sidebars, then reading through state by state. If I had a ¿favorite book of the year¿ this would be it for 2008. It belongs on the shelf of every school and community library. The only thing lacking is contact information for the many museums and cultural centers mentioned, but of course, such information quickly becomes outdated in a print format, so I¿d suggest using the book in conjunction with my frequently updated website AfroAmericanTravel dot com
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