Our Favorite Civil Rights Books

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington has 2 Dope Sistahs thinking about the Civil Rights Movement. Often the narrative is decidedly male-centered, so we decided to share some our favorite books that focus on women’s activism.

wcover[1]

Melba Patillo Beals, Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High

annemoody

Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi

4freedomssake

Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer

LettersFromMS

Elizabeth Martinez, ed., Letters from Mississippi: Reports from Civil Rights Volunteers and Freedom School Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer

soulisrested

Howell Raines, My Soul is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered

BusBoycott

Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson

light-of-freedom[1]

Charles M. Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle

EllaBaker

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement

trailblazers

Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, Barbara Woods, eds., Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941-1965

freedomsdaughters

Lynee Olson, Freedom’s Daughters : The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement

Hey 2Dope Readers, did we miss your favorite? Don’t be shy. Leave us a comment and tell us your favorite titles!!!

_________________________

There are great resources on the internet. We have included a few links below:

Malcolm X vs. Bayard Rustin Debate (January 1962)

Martin Luther King, Jr., A Letter From a Birmingham Jail (April 1963)

Martin Luther King, Jr., Speech at the Great March on Detroit (June 1963)

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Testimony, Democratic National Convention (August 1964)

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Revisiting a Civil Rights Icon, Daisy Bates

DaisyBatesThe recent Supreme Court ruling invalidating Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has 2dopesistahs thinking about the sacrifices of activists who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. For my current research project, I revisited (re-read) The Long Shadow of Little Rock  by civil rights icon, Daisy Bates.

Daisy Bates became a national figure in 1957 when nine black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were chosen to integrate previously all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. As the president of the Arkansas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Bates had been actively pushing the school board to implement and stick to a plan of desegregation to comply with the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In this memoir, Bates chronicles her experiences as she coordinated the activities of the students and documented the attacks on the students while in school.

In a show of massive resistance, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard on the first day of school to prevent the Little Rock Nine from attending classes. Eventually, the Nine were able to attend school after Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and dispatched 1,000 Army paratroopers to protect the students, but not before an angry, anti-integration mob had threatened the students’ safety both individually (Elizabeth Eckford) and collectively.

Adult Daisy Bates

Daisy Lee Gatson Bates (1914-1999)

Little Rock residents who supported the integration plan were singled out for harassment by those attempting to maintain the Jim Crow status quo. Supporters received threatening calls, and others lost their jobs. Daisy Bates had crosses burned in her front yard, and gunshots pierced her living room window. Finally, in 1959, she and her husband L.C. were forced to close the State Press, the weekly newspaper they began publishing in 1941, because of lost advertising revenue. (Daisy Bates was able to begin publishing the paper again in 1985, but this was after her husband’s death.)

In the foreward to the first edition (1962), Eleanor Roosevelt writes that she wishes Daisy Bates “had been able to keep from giving us some of her sense of her bitterness and fear in the end of the book” (xvi). However, I thought it was remarkable that a person who had endured the loss of her livelihood, threats to her safety, and attempts on her life remained so hopeful. Bates had a right to “question America.”

I had forgotten how compelling this book is, and I highly recommend it. It is an excellent read. And if you have an interest in books written by members of the Little Rock Nine, both Melba Patillo Beals and Carlotta Walls Lanier have written memoirs.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968

martin-luther-king-jr-injustice-anywhere

January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

_______

Links to digital resources on the life of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement:

Black Children: The Faces of the Civil Rights Movement

The Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine

Emmett Till; 16th Street Baptist Church Victims: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson; Little Rock Nine: Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas,Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Kalmark, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo Beals; Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis . . .

2013 marks the 50th year since the historic March on Washington, and as I reflect on the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, I cannot help but be disillusioned by current events in this nation surrounding the rights of black people.

In August, I was dismayed by the Supreme Court’s decisions surrounding Affirmative Action and Voting Rights. Their response to both cases reflect a nation postured to reverse the slow gains that the Civil Rights Movement had already achieved. As disillusioned as I was about those cases, nothing seemed more demonstrative of the reversal of this country’s progress toward treating black people as human, than the violence that black children have experienced in recent years.

Black children are no strangers to being victims of racial violence. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs (Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl), for example, were but children when they were brutally beaten by slave masters, raped by them, and/or witnessed some heinous act of violence committed toward someone they loved. They represent the many children enslaved who were victims of violence and/or painfully watched someone they loved become victims of violence.

Once emancipated, black children continued to be witnesses to and victims of violence throughout much of the twentieth century. Malcolm X, for example, often recounted the death of his father. Earl Little was brutally beaten and placed on railroad tracks to be run over by a trolley car when Malcolm X was only six years old. Earl Little, an ardent supporter of Marcus Garvey, was vocal about racial oppression and was targeted by white supremacists and attacked by them for audaciously speaking out against racial violence. Prior to his assassination, he and his family barely escaped their burning home set afire by white supremacists. Earl Little’s murder, coupled with the fact that the insurance company refused to pay his family the life insurance that he purchased for himself, created a situation in which Malcolm X’s family spiraled into poverty. These are the circumstances–a violent racist America–that gave birth to a child who became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Also known as Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, and Malcolm X).

Emmett Till was brutally beaten and tortured for allegedly flirting with a white woman

Emmett Till was brutally beaten and tortured for allegedly flirting with a white woman

Malcolm X, though not around to see what happened to his father, was affected by the violence nonetheless. This violence made a significant impact on a young boy’s life, especially after his father’s death created such a degree of anxiety for his mother that she was eventually committed to a mental hospital. Whether they were victimized directly or whether they witnessed racial violence, this is the violent America that was a reality for black children.

My mother often tells a story in which she was a young girl in the 1940s, riding in the car with her parents and her mother’s cousin. They were travelling on Rt. 301 in Upper Marlboro, MD and they noticed two black sailors being brutally beaten on the side of the road by a couple of white men. My grandfather got out of the car and began to fight the white men off of the black sailors. My grandmother and her cousin helped by pelting the white men with rocks. All the while, my mother sat in the back seat of the car in fear of what would happen should other white people–particularly police officers–arrive on the scene. Had other whites arrived, what followed could have been catastrophic, and my mother was well aware of the consequences.

From L-R: Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley

From L-R: Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley

Black children were not only victims of white violence against black people as witnesses, but they also directly received the wrath of white supremacy by being the target of their violence. From Emmett Till, who was killed for allegedly flirting with a white woman to the four little girls who died as a result of the 16th Street Baptist Church, black children were the casualties of a war against black people. They were brave and they were s/heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, who deserve to stand equally as prominent for their valor as other players of black liberation movements.

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

What became quite evident very recently, as we watched the court case on the tragic death of Trayvon Martin unfold in the media, is that despite a history that makes clear that blacks have been victims of white violence, the American judicial system refuses to see us as such. (See post on Trayvon Martin, “From Don Imus to Zimmerman: Tracing Conversations on Race and Victimization”). What disturbs me most is that we cannot even identify children as being victims of violence, and they are generally the group that is afforded the protection of any civilized society. America wept, and rightfully so, for Newtown, but could not weep for Trayvon Martin because the state of Florida successfully vilified him. Many accepted the notion of Martin as a perpetrator of a crime and not a victim.

Jordan Davis

Jordan Davis was murdered in FL for playing his music too loud. The shooter claimed he saw a gun (which did not exist) and he stood his ground by shooting.

As we commemorate milestones in black history and struggle through our present day injustices, we must consider the children who have died and continue to die for Civil and Human Rights. In fact, we must honor their memory.

May we continue to honor the memory of Trayvon Martin. May we continue to honor the memory of Jordan Davis. May we continue to honor the memory of countless others who die each day because America refuses to imagine them as victims of crime. They are the most recent children who are victims of white supremacist ideologies that refuse to acknowledge us as human.

Wacky Wednesday: What Are You Reading?

Da Hype 1

Junie B. JonesRecently, my 6 year old has gotten into to Junie B. Jones books. I have enjoyed reading these books with her because I love watching her fall in love with a character. I have learned that reading a book series allows children the opportunity to get engaged and stay engaged with a character. Since she was a baby, we have read entire series of books. The characters are familiar to her and she looks forward to the newest experiences they face.

Junie B. Junes, who will not engage you unless you call her by her entire name, gets into trouble and she is brazen and fearless. She is spunky, and she gets into the type of mischief that was historically reserved for boys in literature. She is also creative and smart. I like reading about her new escapades and discussing them with my daughter. Her behavior also provides us opportunities to discuss how I want my 6 year old to behave.

I love watching my daughter explore literature and I am happy that we can now explore it together.

Da Realist 1

I just completed While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of whileworldwatchedAge during the Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn Maull McKinstry. As the title suggests, McKinstry was at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church when it was bombed on September 15, 1963. In fact, she had just seen her friends Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair in the bathroom before the explosion.

I was interested in Maull’s perspective as teenager and as a survivor of such a tragic, violent event. As one might imagine, she had survivor’s guilt. She lost her best friend in the bombing. Psychologically she was traumatized, but she had no opportunity to discuss her feelings. No one talked about what happened–not at school, not at home, and not at church. When the church’s damage was repaired, the bathroom where the girls were killed was literally walled off. When she left Birmingham to attend college, she began drinking as a method of coping. It took her many years to come to terms with her alcoholism and her feelings about the bombing.

While the World Watched is compelling when discussing events that Maull participated in or witnessed. But the sections on other historical events and actors (like JFK and “Bull” Conner) are much less effective. Her narrative is not written chronologically; as a result, it is somewhat repetitive.

It was important for McKinstry to share her story of survival and illustrate the impact of the bombing on her life. While we mourn and pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the Civil Rights Movement, we give considerably less attention to the effects of violence on those who lived through it. Though I may have issues with this book, I’m glad she wrote it.

Black Children: The Faces of the Civil Rights Movement

The Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine

Emmett Till; 16th Street Baptist Church Victims: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson; Little Rock Nine: Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas,Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Kalmark, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo Beals; Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis . . .

2013 marks the 50th year since the historic March on Washington, and as I reflect on the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, I cannot help but be disillusioned by current events in this nation surrounding the rights of black people.

In August, I was dismayed by the Supreme Court’s decisions surrounding Affirmative Action and Voting Rights. Their response to both cases reflect a nation postured to reverse the slow gains that the Civil Rights Movement had already achieved. As disillusioned as I was about those cases, nothing seemed more demonstrative of the reversal of this country’s progress toward treating black people as human, than the violence that black children have experienced in recent years.

Black children are no strangers to being victims of racial violence. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs (Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl), for example, were but children when they were brutally beaten by slave masters, raped by them, and/or witnessed some heinous act of violence committed toward someone they loved. They represent the many children enslaved who were victims of violence and/or painfully watched someone they loved become victims of violence.

Once emancipated, black children continued to be witnesses to and victims of violence throughout much of the twentieth century. Malcolm X, for example, often recounted the death of his father. Earl Little was brutally beaten and placed on railroad tracks to be run over by a trolley car when Malcolm X was only six years old. Earl Little, an ardent supporter of Marcus Garvey, was vocal about racial oppression and was targeted by white supremacists and attacked by them for audaciously speaking out against racial violence. Prior to his assassination, he and his family barely escaped their burning home set afire by white supremacists. Earl Little’s murder, coupled with the fact that the insurance company refused to pay his family the life insurance that he purchased for himself, created a situation in which Malcolm X’s family spiraled into poverty. These are the circumstances–a violent racist America–that gave birth to a child who became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Also known as Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, and Malcolm X).

Emmett Till was brutally beaten and tortured for allegedly flirting with a white woman

Emmett Till was brutally beaten and tortured for allegedly flirting with a white woman

Malcolm X, though not around to see what happened to his father, was affected by the violence nonetheless. This violence made a significant impact on a young boy’s life, especially after his father’s death created such a degree of anxiety for his mother that she was eventually committed to a mental hospital. Whether they were victimized directly or whether they witnessed racial violence, this is the violent America that was a reality for black children.

My mother often tells a story in which she was a young girl in the 1940s, riding in the car with her parents and her mother’s cousin. They were travelling on Rt. 301 in Upper Marlboro, MD and they noticed two black sailors being brutally beaten on the side of the road by a couple of white men. My grandfather got out of the car and began to fight the white men off of the black sailors. My grandmother and her cousin helped by pelting the white men with rocks. All the while, my mother sat in the back seat of the car in fear of what would happen should other white people–particularly police officers–arrive on the scene. Had other whites arrived, what followed could have been catastrophic, and my mother was well aware of the consequences.

From L-R: Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley

From L-R: Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley

Black children were not only victims of white violence against black people as witnesses, but they also directly received the wrath of white supremacy by being the target of their violence. From Emmett Till, who was killed for allegedly flirting with a white woman to the four little girls who died as a result of the 16th Street Baptist Church, black children were the casualties of a war against black people. They were brave and they were s/heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, who deserve to stand equally as prominent for their valor as other players of black liberation movements.

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

What became quite evident very recently, as we watched the court case on the tragic death of Trayvon Martin unfold in the media, is that despite a history that makes clear that blacks have been victims of white violence, the American judicial system refuses to see us as such. (See post on Trayvon Martin, “From Don Imus to Zimmerman: Tracing Conversations on Race and Victimization”). What disturbs me most is that we cannot even identify children as being victims of violence, and they are generally the group that is afforded the protection of any civilized society. America wept, and rightfully so, for Newtown, but could not weep for Trayvon Martin because the state of Florida successfully vilified him. Many accepted the notion of Martin as a perpetrator of a crime and not a victim.

Jordan Davis

Jordan Davis was murdered in FL for playing his music too loud. The shooter claimed he saw a gun (which did not exist) and he stood his ground by shooting.

As we commemorate milestones in black history and struggle through our present day injustices, we must consider the children who have died and continue to die for Civil and Human Rights. In fact, we must honor their memory.

May we continue to honor the memory of Trayvon Martin. May we continue to honor the memory of Jordan Davis. May we continue to honor the memory of countless others who die each day because America refuses to imagine them as victims of crime. They are the most recent children who are victims of white supremacist ideologies that refuse to acknowledge us as human.

In Remembrance: The Bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church

From L-R: Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley

From L-R: Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley

On September 15, 1963, just eighteen days after the March on Washington, four young black girls (pictured above) were killed by a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. In remembrance of those girls whose lives were taken by senseless violence 50 years ago, 2 Dope Sistahs has compiled a list of books, DVDs, and websites on the Birmingham Movement and the bombing. We hope our readers will find our list useful. Let us know what you think. We welcome your suggestions.

whileworldwatched

Carolyn Maull McKinstry, While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age during the Civil Rights Movement, 2013

ButB_ham

Glen T. Eskew, But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the
Civil Rights Struggle, 1997

CarryMeHome

Diane McWhorter, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, 2013 (Reissue)

FireOut

Andrew M. Manis, A Fire You Can’t Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham’s Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, 2001

BlacknWhite

Larry Dane Brimner, Black and White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Conner, 2011.  (For ages 12 and up)

WatsonB_ham

Christopher Paul Curtis, The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963, 2001 (For ages 8 and up)

WegotJob

Cynthia Levinson, We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, 2012 (For Young Adult readers)

SpikeLee

Spike Lee, Director, 4 Little Girls, 2001 (DVD)

eyesonprize

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 (DVD)

16th Street Baptist Church (Photo by Da Realist 1)

16th Street Baptist Church
(Photo by Da Realist 1)

Websites (links):

Eulogy for the Young Victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing

16th Street Baptist Church (The church has scheduled events and activities to commemorate the anniversary.)

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

“Hello”: Where Are the Women?

Photo from democracy.org

Photo from democracy.org

Representative John Lewis (D-GA) is recognized as the only living speaker from the 1963 March on Washington. That is, if you don’t count Gloria Richardson.

In 1963, Gloria Richardson was a 41-year-old activist, an organizer of the Cambridge (MD) Movement, when she was asked to help coordinate travel for people attending the March. She was a part of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee, which was affiliated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and became its chairwoman. As chair, she helped launch a multi-generational movement which focused on public accommodations, economic opportunities, and housing.

Richardson’s name was listed on the official program along with Daisy Bates, Diane Nash Bevel, Mrs. Medgar (Myrlie) Evers, Mrs. Herbert (Prince) Lee, and Rosa Parks as “Negro Women Fighters for Freedom.” Daisy Bates, former president of the Arkansas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, spoke less than two minutes. When it was Richardson’s turn, she was only able to say “hello” before being whisked away from the microphones and off the stage.

Richardson’s story illustrates the marginalization of women and grassroots activists. There are so many great stories surrounding the Civil Rights Movement in general and March on Washington, in particular, but this anniversary has focused primarily on Martin Luther King and the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream Speech.” If you are weary of this over-simplified representation of people and events, you will enjoy learning about Gloria Richardson. (For a link to Gloria Richardson’s August 27 interview with Democracy Now! click here.)

Our Favorite Civil Rights Books

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington has 2 Dope Sistahs thinking about the Civil Rights Movement. Often the narrative is decidedly male-centered, so we decided to share some our favorite books that focus on women’s activism.

wcover[1]

Melba Patillo Beals, Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High

annemoody

Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi

4freedomssake

Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer

LettersFromMS

Elizabeth Martinez, ed., Letters from Mississippi: Reports from Civil Rights Volunteers and Freedom School Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer

soulisrested

Howell Raines, My Soul is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered

BusBoycott

Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson

light-of-freedom[1]

Charles M. Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle

EllaBaker

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement

trailblazers

Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, Barbara Woods, eds., Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941-1965

freedomsdaughters

Lynee Olson, Freedom’s Daughters : The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement

There are great resources on the internet. We have included a few links below:

Malcolm X vs. Bayard Rustin Debate (January 1962)

Martin Luther King, Jr., A Letter From a Birmingham Jail (April 1963)

Martin Luther King, Jr., Speech at the Great March on Detroit (June 1963)

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Testimony, Democratic National Convention (August 1964)

 

“Tell them about the Dream, Martin,” Or, Carrying a Heavy Load

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–

And, then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or, crust and sugar over–

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or, does it explode?

–“Harlem” by Langston Hughes

1963 March On Washington

1963 March On Washington

On August 28, 2013, our country will celebrate 50 years since the historic March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

The contents of that speech was not what Dr. King originally planned to discuss. Just after he spoke on the issues in his prepared text, singer Mahalia Jackson yelled, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” Scholars believe that Mahalia Jackson prompted Dr. King’s extemporaneous speech on his dream for a better America.

As I reflect on his “dream” for this 50 year celebration, I cannot help but consider it in the context of this tough summer we had in civil rights.

Arguably one of the most significant accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement is the Voting Rights Act and this summer, parts of its provisions were overturned. Immediately after the decision was made, the State of Texas put into action new voting districts that diminish the power of black voters.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”–Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

In addition to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there was another keynote speaker the day of the march, and he was a 23 year old powerhouse named John Lewis.

In 1963, John Lewis was the President of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and had such a  powerful voice that he was invited to speak alongside Dr. King. I think about John Lewis often, nowadays, as I reflect on the current state of race relations and civil rights, and I wonder how painful it must have been for him to witness significant parts of voters rights revoked.

This past Saturday, there was a march that commemorated the one 50 years before, and it established the need to address the current social and political needs of African Americans. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), who 50 years before spoke to a crowd about their inalienable rights as citizens of the United States, reaffirmed the need for blacks to stay vigilant in their fight for civil rights. He also made clear that he would not “stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us.”

Where are we today in actualizing Dr. King’s dream? Has his dream been deferred?

What do you think about Dr. King’s Dream? What has disturbed you or what (if anything) has this country done right?