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Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracyby Bruce Watson
Synopses & Reviews
A majestic history of the summer of '64, which forever changed race relations in America
In the summer of 1964, with the civil rights movement stalled, seven hundred college students descended on Mississippi to register black voters, teach in Freedom Schools, and live in sharecroppers' shacks. But by the time their first night in the state had ended, three volunteers were dead, black churches had burned, and America had a new definition of freedom.
This remarkable chapter in American history, the basis for the controversial film Mississippi Burning, is now the subject of Bruce Watson's thoughtful and riveting historical narrative. Using in- depth interviews with participants and residents, Watson brilliantly captures the tottering legacy of Jim Crow in Mississippi and the chaos that brought such national figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pete Seeger to the state. Freedom Summer presents finely rendered portraits of the courageous black citizens-and Northern volunteers-who refused to be intimidated in their struggle for justice, and the white Mississippians who would kill to protect a dying way of life. Few books have provided such an intimate look at race relations during the deadliest days of the Civil Rights movement, and Freedom Summer will appeal to readers of Taylor Branch and Doug Blackmon.
"In this mesmerizing history, Watson (Sacco and Vanzetti) revisits the blistering summer of 1964 when about 700 volunteers arrived in Mississippi to agitate for civil rights and endured horrific harassment, intimidation, and persecution from racist state and private forces. The largely white, college student volunteers and the largely black trainers and organizers, SNCC veterans of previous campaigns, were fed and sheltered by the impoverished black community members they had come to serve and secure suffrage for. Their path was two-pronged: the Freedom School's challenge to a 'power structure... that confined Negro education to 'learning to stay in your place' ' and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's challenge to Mississippi's all-white delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Familiar figures (e.g., Lyndon B. Johnson, Stokely Carmichael, Fannie Lou Hamer) take the stage, but Watson's dramatic center belongs to four 'ordinary' volunteers, whose experiences he portrays with resonant detail. The murdered Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner cast shadows over all, haunting Watson's account of how the volunteers, organizers, and the black Mississippians who dared seek political expression 'lifted and revived the trampled dream of democracy.' (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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"Freedom Summer" presents finely rendered portraits of the courageous black citizens--and Northern volunteers--who refused to be intimidated in their struggle for justice, and the white Mississippians who would kill to protect a dying way of life.
A riveting account of one of the most remarkable episodes in American history.
In his critically acclaimed history Freedom Summer, award- winning author Bruce Watson presents powerful testimony about a crucial episode in the American civil rights movement. During the sweltering summer of 1964, more than seven hundred American college students descended upon segregated, reactionary Mississippi to register black voters and educate black children. On the night of their arrival, the worst fears of a race-torn nation were realized when three young men disappeared, thought to have been murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Taking readers into the heart of these remarkable months, Freedom Summer shines new light on a critical moment of nascent change in America.
About the Author
Bruce Watson's previous books include Sacco and Vanzetti, a finalist for the Edgar Award, and Bread and Roses, a New York Public Library Book to Remember. His journalism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Smithsonian, and Reader's Digest. He lives in Massachusetts.
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History and Social Science » African American Studies » Civil Rights Movement