Free at Last? The Civil Rights Movement and the People Who Made It (Magill Book Reviews)
The title of this substantial volume comes from a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.; yet Powledge, unlike many other historians of the Civil Rights movement, does not focus on the movement’s most charismatic leader. One learns not only about the well-educated young black men and women who were the movement’s shock troops but also about lesser-known figures such as L.C. Dorsey, a small-town high school dropout who found her life transformed by the 1964 Freedom Summer voter registration campaign. One learns as well about two white activists from the North: Henry Schwarzschild, a German-Jewish refugee and a 1961 Freedom Rider; and Sharon Durger, a young Indiana telephone operator and a 1964 Freedom Summer volunteer. The author cites at length the testimony of both the movement’s activists and its Southern white opponents; he also draws on his own memories as a reporter in the South in the early 1960’s in addition to various written sources.
FREE AT LAST? is especially informative on the role of the Federal government (Powledge criticizes what he sees as President John F. Kennedy’s foot-dragging on civil rights), on the struggle to integrate Southern state universities, and on the way newspapers and television drew national attention to the movement. Powledge, who focuses on the movement in the South, distinguishes between socioeconomic discrimination against blacks in the North in the 1960’s, on the one hand, and brutal state-supported racial...
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