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Readings on Civil Rights in America

Civil Rights in America- the 2014 theme for National Black History Month inspires reflection upon our nation’s social efforts to end racial segregation. The peak of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s and 60’s is known partly for its nonviolent protests which took place across the nation including Columbia, South Carolina. On March 2, 1961 African American students marched from Zion Baptist Church to the South Carolina State House to express their grievances concerning the Civil Rights of African Americans. During the event, 187 students were arrested. In 1963 The U.S. Supreme Court overruled the students’ convictions in the case Edwards v. South Carolina. To learn more about Civil Rights in America and Columbia’s role in the movement check out some of the books listed below. For recommendations on where to begin your online research, see the Related Resources and Websites list.


Amazon Says: The civil rights movement in South Carolina has an epic and tumultuous history, beginning with the very first statewide meeting of the NAACP in 1939. With stories of sit-ins, more...
Amazon Says: The civil rights movement in South Carolina has an epic and tumultuous history, beginning with the very first statewide meeting of the NAACP in 1939. With stories of sit-ins, movements and the integration of state universities, this is the first comprehensive history of South Carolina's civil rights struggles. And behind every achievement are the major legal rulings that protected them, interspersed with the familiar names of Thurgood Marshall, Matthew Perry, Ernest A. Finney and Judge Waties Waring. Join former South Carolina NAACP president and activist James L. Felder as he recounts the epic struggle African Americans have faced, from fighting for the right to vote to the desegregation of public spaces and all the efforts in between. less...
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Amazon Says: * Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction* Nominated for a 2013 Edgar Award * Book of the Year (Non-fiction, 2012) The Boston Globe, Chri more...
Amazon Says: * Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction* Nominated for a 2013 Edgar Award * Book of the Year (Non-fiction, 2012) The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor In 1949, Florida's orange industry was booming, and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. To maintain order and profits, they turned to Willis V. McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white seventeen-year-old Groveland girl cried rape, McCall was fast on the trail of four young blacks who dared to envision a future for themselves beyond the citrus groves. By day's end, the Ku Klux Klan had rolled into town, burning the homes of blacks to the ground and chasing hundreds into the swamps, hell-bent on lynching the young men who came to be known as "the Groveland Boys." And so began the chain of events that would bring Thurgood Marshall, the man known as "Mr. Civil Rights," and the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, into the deadly fray. Associates thought it was suicidal for him to wade into the "Florida Terror" at a time when he was irreplaceable to the burgeoning civil rights movement, but the lawyer would not shrink from the fight--not after the Klan had murdered one of Marshall's NAACP associates involved with the case and Marshall had endured continual threats that he would be next. Drawing on a wealth of never-before-published material, including the FBI's unredacted Groveland case files, as well as unprecedented access to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund files, King shines new light on this remarkable civil rights crusader, setting his rich and driving narrative against the heroic backdrop of a case that U.S. Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson decried as "one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to American justice. less...
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Amazon Says: At the beginning of 1965, the U.S. seemed on the cusp of a golden age. Although Americans had been shocked by the assassination in 1963 of President Kennedy, they exuded a se more...
Amazon Says: At the beginning of 1965, the U.S. seemed on the cusp of a golden age. Although Americans had been shocked by the assassination in 1963 of President Kennedy, they exuded a sense of consensus and optimism that showed no signs of abating. Indeed, political liberalism and interracial civil rights activism made it appear as if 1965 would find America more progressive and unified than it had ever been before. In January 1965, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed that the country had “no irreconcilable conflicts.” Johnson, who was an extraordinarily skillful manager of Congress, succeeded in securing an avalanche of Great Society legislation in 1965, including Medicare, immigration reform, and a powerful Voting Rights Act. But as esteemed historian James T. Patterson reveals in The Eve of Destruction, that sense of harmony dissipated over the course of the year. As Patterson shows, 1965 marked the birth of the tumultuous era we now know as “The Sixties,” when American society and culture underwent a major transformation. Turmoil erupted in the American South early in the year, when police attacked civil rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama. Many black leaders, outraged, began to lose faith in nonviolent and interracial strategies of protest. Meanwhile, the U.S. rushed into a deadly war in Vietnam, inciting rebelliousness at home. On August 11th, five days after Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, racial violence exploded in the Watts area of Los Angeles. The six days of looting and arson that followed shocked many Americans and cooled their enthusiasm for the president’s remaining initiatives. As the national mood darkened, the country became deeply divided. By the end of 1965, a conservative resurgence was beginning to redefine the political scene even as developments in popular music were enlivening the Left. In The Eve of Destruction, Patterson traces the events of this transformative year, showing how they dramatically reshaped the nation and reset the course of American life. less...
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Amazon Says: A brilliant history that goes beyond the dazzling “I Have a Dream” speech to explore the real significance of the massive march and the movement it inspired. It was the fi more...
Amazon Says: A brilliant history that goes beyond the dazzling “I Have a Dream” speech to explore the real significance of the massive march and the movement it inspired. It was the final speech of a long day, August 28, 1963, when hundreds of thousands gathered on the Mall for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In a resounding cadence, Martin Luther King Jr. lifted the crowd when he told of his dream that all Americans would join together to realize the founding ideal of equality. The power of the speech created an enduring symbol of the march and the larger civil rights movement. King’s speech still inspires us fifty years later, but its very power has also narrowed our understanding of the march. In this insightful history, William P. Jones restores the march to its full significance. The opening speech of the day was delivered by the leader of the march, the great trade unionist A. Philip Randolph, who first called for a march on Washington in 1941 to press for equal opportunity in employment and the armed forces. To the crowd that stretched more than a mile before him, Randolph called for an end to segregation and a living wage for every American. Equal access to accommodations and services would mean little to people, white and black, who could not afford them. Randolph’s egalitarian vision of economic and social citizenship is the strong thread running through the full history of the March on Washington Movement. It was a movement of sustained grassroots organizing, linked locally to women’s groups, unions, and churches across the country. Jones’s fresh, compelling history delivers a new understanding of this emblematic event and the broader civil rights movement it propelled. 8 pages of photographs less...
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Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph
Amazon Says: In the 1960s he exhorted students at Columbia University to burn their college to the ground. Today he’s chair of their School of the Arts film division. Jamal Joseph’s pe more...
Amazon Says: In the 1960s he exhorted students at Columbia University to burn their college to the ground. Today he’s chair of their School of the Arts film division. Jamal Joseph’s personal odyssey—from the streets of Harlem to Riker’s Island and Leavenworth to the halls of Columbia—is as gripping as it is inspiring.Eddie Joseph was a high school honor student, slated to graduate early and begin college. But this was the late 1960s in Bronx’s black ghetto, and fifteen-year-old Eddie was introduced to the tenets of the Black Panther Party, which was just gaining a national foothold. By sixteen, his devotion to the cause landed him in prison on the infamous Rikers Island—charged with conspiracy as one of the Panther 21 in one of the most emblematic criminal cases of the sixties. When exonerated, Eddie—now called Jamal—became the youngest spokesperson and leader of the Panthers’ New York chapter.He joined the “revolutionary underground,” later landing back in prison. Sentenced to more than twelve years in Leavenworth, he earned three degrees there and found a new calling. He is now chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts film division—the very school he exhorted students to burn down during one of his most famous speeches as a Panther.In raw, powerful prose, Jamal Joseph helps us understand what it meant to be a soldier inside the militant Black Panther movement. He recounts a harrowing, sometimes deadly imprisonment as he charts his path to manhood in a book filled with equal parts rage, despair, and hope. less...
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Amazon Says: Rebellion in Black and White offers a panoramic view of southern student activism in the 1960s. Original scholarly essays demonstrate how southern students promoted desegrega more...
Amazon Says: Rebellion in Black and White offers a panoramic view of southern student activism in the 1960s. Original scholarly essays demonstrate how southern students promoted desegregation, racial equality, free speech, academic freedom, world peace, gender equity, sexual liberation, Black Power, and the personal freedoms associated with the counterculture of the decade. Most accounts of the 1960s student movement and the New Left have been northern-centered, focusing on rebellions at the University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University, and others. And yet, students at southern colleges and universities also organized and acted to change race and gender relations and to end the Vietnam War. Southern students took longer to rebel due to the south’s legacy of segregation, its military tradition, and its Bible Belt convictions, but their efforts were just as effective as those in the north. Rebellion in Black and White sheds light on higher education, students, culture, and politics of the American south. Edited by Robert Cohen and David J. Snyder, the book features the work of both seasoned historians and a new generation of scholars offering fresh perspectives on the civil rights movement and many others.Contributors: Dan T. CarterDavid T. FarberJelani FavorsWesley HoganChristopher A. HuffNicholas G. MeriwetherGregg L. MichelKelly MorrowDoug RossinowCleveland L. Sellers Jr.Gary S. SprayberryMarcia G. SynnottJeffrey A. TurnerErica WhittingtonJoy Ann Williamson-Lott less...
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Amazon Says: 2014 NAACP Image Award Winner: Outstanding Literary Work – Biography / Auto Biography 2013 Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians  more...
Amazon Says: 2014 NAACP Image Award Winner: Outstanding Literary Work – Biography / Auto Biography 2013 Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians  Choice Top 25 Academic Titles for 2013 The definitive political biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movementPresenting a corrective to the popular notion of Rosa Parks as the quiet seamstress who, with a single act, birthed the modern civil rights movement, Theoharis provides a revealing window into Parks’s politics and years of activism. She shows readers how this civil rights movement radical sought—for more than a half a century—to expose and eradicate the American racial-caste system in jobs, schools, public services, and criminal justice. less...
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Amazon Says: The civil rights movement was also a struggle for economic justice, one that until now has not had its own history. Sharing the Prize demonstrates the significant material gai more...
Amazon Says: The civil rights movement was also a struggle for economic justice, one that until now has not had its own history. Sharing the Prize demonstrates the significant material gains black southerners made—in improved job opportunities, quality of education, and health care—from the 1960s to the 1970s and beyond. Because black advances did not come at the expense of southern whites, Gavin Wright argues, the civil rights struggle was that rarest of social revolutions: one that benefits both sides. From the beginning, black activists sought economic justice in addition to full legal rights. The southern bus boycotts and lunch counter sit-ins were famous acts of civil disobedience, but they were also demands for jobs in the very services being denied blacks. In the period of enforced desegregation following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the wages of southern black workers increased dramatically. Wright’s painstaking documentation of this fact undermines beliefs that government intervention was unnecessary, that discrimination was irrational, and that segregation would gradually disappear once the market was allowed to work. Wright also explains why white southerners defended for so long a system that failed to serve their own best interests. Sharing the Prize makes clear that the material benefits of the civil rights acts of the 1960s are as significant as the moral ones—an especially timely achievement as these monumental pieces of legislation, and the efficacy of governmental intervention more broadly, face new challenges. less...
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Amazon Says: “Nobody can ride your back if your back’s not bent,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said at the end of a Citizenship Education Program (CEP), an adult grassroots training pr more...
Amazon Says: “Nobody can ride your back if your back’s not bent,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said at the end of a Citizenship Education Program (CEP), an adult grassroots training program directed by Dorothy Cotton. This program, called the best-kept secret of the twentieth century’s civil rights movement, was critical in preparing legions of disenfranchised people across the South to work with existing systems of local government to gain access to services and resources they were entitled to as citizens. They learned to demonstrate peacefully against injustice, even when they were met with violence and hatred. The CEP was born out of the work of the Tennessee Highlander Folk School and was fully developed and expanded by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led by Dr. King until that fateful day in Memphis in April 1968. Cotton was checked into the Lorraine Motel at that time as well, but she’d left to do the work of the CEP before the assassin’s bullet was fired. If Your Back’s Not Bent recounts the accomplishments and the drama of this training that was largely ignored by the media, which had focused its attention on marches and demonstrations. This book describes who participated and how they were transformed—men and women alike—from victims to active citizens, and how they transformed their communities and ultimately the country into a place of greater freedom and justice for all. Cotton, the only woman in Dr. King’s inner circle of leadership, for the first time offers her account of the movement, correcting the historical impression that “we only marched and sang.” She shows how the CEP was key to the movement’s success, and how the lessons of the program can serve our democracy now. People, and therefore systems, can indeed change “if your back’s not bent.” less...
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