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Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories

by Ellen Levine

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 1993
ISBN: 0-399-21893-9
Publisher: Putnam

 Using the words of participants in the landmark struggles in Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi, Levine powerfully re-creates their experiences. Seeking out African-Americans who were children or teenagers at the time--none of them famous though many intimates of figures like Michael Schwerner, Fannie Lou Hamer, or Martin Luther King, Jr.--the author records their memories of segregation and of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Claudette Colvin, 15, refused to give up her seat nine months before Rosa Parks's similar action); of integrating the schools (the black students' dogged persistence while enduring the open antagonism and injustices of classmates and teachers may be the most moving heroism in a book where extraordinary courage inhabits every page); of sit-ins, freedom rides, and voter registration drives; of the Selma march. Prefacing each section with historical background, Levine skillfully selects accounts to portray the period, the particular circumstances, the people involved, the brutality and intransigence of the whites, the powerful sense of brotherhood, community, and self-worth that the Movement engendered in blacks, and their reliance on their faith and on unyielding nonviolence. Notes on the 30 interviewees here reveal varied later lives: teachers, lawyers, and other members of the middle class; a home health aide, an assistant secretary of labor in the Carter Administration. Inspiring and richly authentic source material: a must. Chronology (1954-68); bibliography of additional sources; b&w photos and index not seen. (Nonfiction. 10+)