Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mash Day: Your Rights and Their History

Lately I've noticed a lot of new books in a mish-mash of formats about the fight for civil rights in the U.S., like We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March. This book discusses the important role of youth during the civil rights movement.

I'm excited about The Silence of Our Friends, a graphic novel based on the author's memories from growing up in Houston in the '60s. The illustrations and powerful text depict the risk of crossing color lines, and the importance of doing so to fight for equality.

Miles to Go for Freedom collects photographs and primary source accounts of life during the Jim Crow years, the long period of segregation and early civil rights efforts in the U.S. The fascinating first-hand accounts in this book provide an overview of the 1890s to 1954 through the perspective of real people who were there.

In To the Mountaintop, activist Charlayne Hunter-Gault tells her story. She was one of the first two African American students to attend the University of Georgia. Her tenure there began in 1961, and, in spite of often violent institutional and community resistance, the oldest public university in the U.S, finally became desegregated. Hunter-Gault places her story within the contest of  the civil rights movement in general, leading right up to the election of President Barack Obama.

In the new novel Crow, Barbara Wright tells the fictionalized story of a real historic event. Moses Thomas is the son of a journalist who writes for the Daily Record, the only black newspaper in the south. When white supremacists burn the newspaper building and arrest Moses' father, he discovers how sheltered his life has been and how racism runs rampant.

There you have it! A non-fiction book, a graphic novel, a collection of primary sources, a memoir and a novel- all fascinating accounts of a frightening though ultimately empowering era of American history, featuring characters whose influence is still felt profoundly today.


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