Morrison (Political Science and Public Administration/Mississippi State Univ.; African Americans and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook, 2003) brings our belated attention to Aaron Henry (1922-1997), a man of immense talent devoted to establishing an integrated society.
The author recounts Henry’s remarkable achievements, which could easily fill volumes. Born in the Mississippi Delta, he was raised learning the methods that would enable him to change the world as he knew it. Like so many others, Henry returned from service in the Army expecting certain rights. Upset with the continuing spread of prejudice and discrimination, he opened a pharmacy in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and commenced to work for social change. He set his sights first on enfranchising Negro voters, joined the NAACP, and perfected his networking and speaking skills. Soon, he developed a successful partnership with Medgar Evers, and he and Evers successfully pushed beyond the framework of the slow-moving NAACP parent organization. The author gives only minor insights into the man and his family, sticking to his many and varied accomplishments. Occasionally, the narrative gets bogged down in his professorial style and attempt to include everything. Henry organized multiple social movements in Clarksdale, sit-ins at railway and bus stations, a boycott of Clarksdale shops that lasted for years, and protests against all segregated establishments, including churches. He also participated in the Freedom Vote Campaign. With the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the War on Poverty, and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, Henry really blossomed. His entrepreneurial abilities, political acumen, and close connections helped secure funding for countless projects in his home state. His ability to compromise turned some against his leadership, but his successes vastly outweighed his failures. Henry not only changed the racial climate in Mississippi; he challenged the entire infrastructure.
A sometimes slow-moving but mostly enlightening book about a fearless man that readers should know better.