This book is the second volume of the Library of America's documentary, journalistic history of the Civil Rights Movement. The first volume covers the years 1941-1963 and takes the story up to the March on Washington in August, 1963. The second volume covers a shorter time span, 1963 - 1973, but an equally momentous series of events. Volume II is easily important enough for its own short notice and review here.
The centerpiece of the two volumes is the March on Washington which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Indeed, the 1963 March, led by Dr. King, may be the watershed event of the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. There are three eyewitness accounts of the March presented in this book offering three different perspectives. The 1963 March, and the moment of idealism, justice and peace it has come to represent pervades and suggests worlds of commentary upon the rest of the volume.
The articles in this book have an emphasis on Congressional action. In 1964, following the 1963 events in Birmingham Alabama and the 1963 March, Congress passed the Civil Rights Law which, in time, would effectively end segregation in the South. In 1965, following events in Selma, Alabama and the March from Selma to Montgomery Alabama, Congress enacted voting rights legislation which at long last fulfilled the promise of the 15th Amendment to protect the voting rights of blacks. The events in Selma, and the manner in which they galvanized the nation are well documented in this book.
The story recounted in this volume is marked by assasination, violence and discord. There are two major assassinations highlighted here. The volume describes Malcom X's break from the Black Muslim movement and his assassination in February, 1965. A great deal of space is given to the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1965 and to its tragic aftermath.
There is much space given to the violence that haunted the struggle for Civil Rights. In particular, many articles are given over to the murder of three young Civil Rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi: Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Cheney during June, 1964. Their murder involved the FBI in a massive manhunt which ultimately led to the conviction of Klansmen and of local law enforcement officials.
There is a great deal of material in the volume on the riots in Watts and Detroit and with the rise of Black Power and the Black Panther movement.
There are articles in this volume that draw excellent portraits of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, including Malcom X, Stokely Carmichael, Bayard Rustin, Ralph Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, and, of course, Dr. King.
There are pictures of dusty roads and small towns in the South. Many articles are given to pictures of the South before and after the victories of the Civil Rights Movement. There is a suggestion in more than a few articles that the South may have, given its past, an ultimately easier time of moving towards a unified, racially egalitarian and united society than will the North. Time still needs to tell whether this is will in fact bethe case.
These are two indespensible volumes on the most important social movement of 20th Century America. The Civil Rights Movement is an essential component in the formation of the American dream and the American ideal.