This second volume charts the movement’s course from the historic 1963 March on Washington through the violence of the late 1960s to the complex reflections of the early 1970s. Karl Fleming and James D. Williams report on the murder of four young girls in the Birmingham church bombing; John Hersey and Alice Lake bear witness to Mississippi’s “Freedom Summer”; Andrew Kopkind, Elizabeth Hardwick, and Renata Adler offer impressions of the Selma-to-Montgomery March; Robert Richardson, Jimmy Breslin, and Bob Clark capture the chaos of the Watts and Detroit riots.
At the 1966 Meredith March, Paul Good observes the tension emerging between believers in non-violent resistance and advocates of the new Black Power. Gordon Parks responds to the assassination of Malcolm X; Joan Didion, Gilbert Moore, and Nora Sayre evoke the phenomenon of the Black Panthers. Earl Caldwell, the only reporter present, describes King’s assassination, while Garry Wills and Pat Waters detail its traumatic aftermath. Willie Morris and Marshall Frady look at integration in the new South, while Tom Wolfe caustically explores new forms of racial confrontation and Richard Margolis depicts the emergence of a new consciousness among African-American college students.
Each volume contains a detailed chronology of events, biographical profiles and photographs of the journalists, explanatory notes, and an index.
LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
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Reporting Civil Rights, Part TwoAmerican Journalism 1963-1973
By Of America Library
Library of AmericaCopyright © 2003 Of America Library
All right reserved.
Lillian Smith, from Killers of the Dream (1949)
Even its children know that the South is in trouble. No one has to tell them; no words said aloud. To them, it is a vague thing weaving in and out of their play, like a ghost haunting an old graveyard or whispers after the household sleeps-fleeting mystery, vague menace, to which each responds in his own way. Some learn to screen out all except the soft and the soothing; others deny even as they see plainly, and hear. But all know that under quiet words and warmth and laughter, under the slow ease and tender concern about small matters, there is a heavy burden on all of us and as heavy a refusal to confess it. The children know this "trouble" is bigger than they, bigger than their family, bigger than their church, so big that people turn away from its size. They have seen it flash out like lightning and shatter a town's peace, have felt it tear up all they believe in. They have measured its giant strength and they feel weak when they remember.
This haunted childhood belongs to every southerner. Many of us run away from it but we come back like a hurt animal to its wound, or a murderer to the scene of his sin. The human heart dares not stay away too long from that which hurt it most. There is a return journey to anguish that few of us are released from making.
We who were born in the South call this mesh of feeling and memory "loyalty." We think of it sometimes as "love." We identify with the South's trouble as if we, individually, were responsible for all of it. We defend the sins and sorrows of three hundred years as if each sin had been committed by us alone and each sorrow had cut across our heart. We are as hurt at criticism of our region as if our own name were called aloud by the critic. We have known guilt without understanding it, and there is no tie that binds men closer to the past and each other than that.
James Baldwin, from The Fire Next Time November 1962
There is absolutely no reason to suppose that white people are better equipped to frame the laws by which I am to be governed than I am. It is entirely unacceptable that I should have no voice in the political affairs of my own country, for I am not a ward of America; I am one of the first Americans to arrive on these shores.
Fannie Lou Hamer, from Mississippi Black Paper June 1963
When we were put in the jail, and when I was put in the jail, I told them that nothing is right around here. The arresting officer had lied and said that I was resisting arrest. I told them that I was not leaving my cell, and that if they wanted me they had to kill me in the cell and drag me out. I would rather be killed inside my cell instead of outside the cell. Doctor Searcy, Cleveland, Mississippi, said that I had been beaten so deeply that my nerve endings are permanently damaged, and I am sore.
Tom Dent, Freedomways January-June 1963
I read some of the mail Jay [James Meredith, the first black student at Ole Miss] had received; there were boxes of letters in his bedroom. White southerners, Negroes from the north and south, soldiers, school children, college students and student-associations, foreign students, social workers (the most predictable, self-conscious letters), religious crackpots, race baiters and race haters-all wrote. Meredith had touched something deep in these people.
The ones that most moved me were from white southern youths. They couldn't ignore the realities of racial oppression any longer and they felt guilty about it. The letters appeared to be attempts to somehow expiate their guilt: "Go boy go, we can't tell our friends how we feel, but we're for you."
Anne Moody, from Coming of Age in Mississippi September 1962
In mid-September I was back on campus. But didn't very much happen until February when the NAACP held its annual convention in Jackson. They were having a whole lot of interesting speakers: Jackie Robinson, Floyd Patterson, Curt Flood, Margaretta Belafonte, and many others. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I was so excited that I sent one of the leaflets home to Mama and asked her to come.
Three days later I got a letter from Mama with dried-up tears on it, forbidding me to go to the convention. It went on for more than six pages. She said if I didn't stop that shit she would come to Tougaloo and kill me herself. She told me about the time I last visited her, on Thanksgiving, and she had picked me up at the bus station. She said she picked me up because she was scared some white in my hometown would try to do something to me. She said the sheriff had been by, telling her I was messing around with that NAACP group. She said he told her if I didn't stop it, I could not come back there any more. He said that they didn't need any of those NAACP people messing around in Centreville. She ended her letter by saying that she had burned the leaflet I sent her. "Please don't send any more of that stuff here. I don't want nothing to happen to us here," she said. "If you keep that up, you will never be able to come home again."
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