A victim of Nazi terror who became a Freedom Summer volunteer in rural Mississippi re-creates the conviction of the activists’ early civil rights struggles.
The author of an earlier memoir of her half-Jewish family’s persecution in Germany during World War II (The Hands of War, 2013), Ingram focuses here on her experience in her 20s, when she was caught up in issues of social justice first in New York City and then in Washington, D.C., and Mississippi. Having been imbued by her atheist father with the “sacred and secular duty to oppose racism wherever [she] encountered it,” Ingram was deeply troubled by the enormous chasm in inequality between blacks and whites in New York, where she lived and worked in her early 20s. Befriending African-Americans yet not allowed to take them to the same establishments or live in the same buildings, the author was outraged by the racial discrimination prevalent even among so-called enlightened people. With her new husband, Daniel, a Southern-born journalist of labor-relations law, she moved to Washington, D.C., and joined the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality. The group worked for the integration of institutions and against housing discrimination, which, as Ingram discovered, was the most pernicious form of racial inequality. As part of the circle of activists, she chronicles meeting many of the lights of the movement and working for the enormous success of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963. The next summer, on the bus back from the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, Fannie Lou Hamer convinced the author she should go to rural Mississippi to register voters and start a Freedom School. Throughout this brief book, Ingram’s anecdotes are charming, and her memories of a deeply traumatized rural South provide a significant, moving record.
A freedom fighter’s passionate memoir from the trenches.