Eyes on the Prize

by Juan Williams
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Juan Williams's book is the print counterpart to the PBS documentary series of the same name. The book traces the Civil Rights movement from the years 1954 to 1965, beginning with the legal case against school segregation that culminated in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.

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Juan Williams's book is the print counterpart to the PBS documentary series of the same name. The book traces the Civil Rights movement from the years 1954 to 1965, beginning with the legal case against school segregation that culminated in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.

The book moves on to the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi and to the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, showing how the Civil Rights movement gathered steam and organization in 1955. Accompanied by photographs that are also used in the documentary, the book goes on to cover the Little Rock Nine and their attempt to integrate a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, and other offshoots of the movement against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama. The book concludes with the March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the protests in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 that led in part to the Voting Rights Act. The book is a comprehensive but relatively succinct history of the early part of the Civil Rights movement, including the activities of not only the well-known leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. but also lesser-known leaders such as Diane Nash.

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Eyes on the Prize by Juan Williams started as a public television documentary created and aired in two parts on public television, both PBS in the United States and BBC in Britain. The first six episodes aired in 1987 as Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954–1965). Eight more episodes aired in 1990 under the title Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965–1985. It was soon released on video and was widely aired in educational settings. Washington Post journalist Juan Williams' book was a companion volume to the first TV series.

Narrated by Civil Rights activist Julian Bond, who also wrote a preface for the book, the documentary  begins with two significant events, the death of Emmett Till in Mississippi and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama, which triggered the Civil Rights Movement. Next, we encounter Martin Luther King and other emerging civil rights leaders. 

The next chapters move on to school desegregation efforts in Arkansas and Mississippi, addressing both K-12 and university-level issues. This is followed by challenges to segregation in restaurants and public transportation in Tennessee and other southern states and the use of sit-ins and other forms of peaceful protest. Next, the book covers the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other civil rights organizations, the March on Washington, and the 1964 election. The book ends on a positive note with the passage of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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