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REFUSE TO STAND SILENTLY BY: An Oral History of Grass-Roots Social Activism in America 1921-1964 by Eliot--Ed. Wigginton

REFUSE TO STAND SILENTLY BY: An Oral History of Grass-Roots Social Activism in America 1921-1964


Pub Date: May 25th, 1992
Publisher: Doubleday

Very much in the populist spirit and style of Studs Terkel, the creator of the Foxfire series here documents the experiences of 20th-century civil-rights activists who had a strong connection with the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. The well-edited interview/reports effectively present the activists' family and educational experiences as background for understanding how they came to speak out. Although Myles Horton, the guiding spirit of Highlander, is not represented, his coworkers make clear the school's important work in facilitating all of the major civil-rights activity in the South. For example, Rosa Parks describes her work for the NAACP and her training at Highlander before her famous action. Septima Clark and Bernice Robinson document Highlander's training and support for some of the major literacy campaigns that preceded voter registration drives. Julian Bond and Andrew Young present ""insiders' "" views of working with Martin Luther King, Jr., and offer accounts of conflicts between King's organization and the students who rallied around him. Other activists describe Highlander involvement with coal miners and participants in other union struggles, and Pete Seeger details the creation at Highlander of the famous anthem ""We Shall Overcome."" Blacks and whites alike speak fondly of the strong feelings of racial unity fostered at the school. Throughout, readers can follow the pattern of Highlander's style of organizing: outrage at monstrous social conditions, inspiration from accounts of past efforts to improve them, and reflections on the meaning of these efforts for American society. Effective social history, then, as told by the participants.