Important Civil Rights History
James Meredith was a ground breaker in the Civil Rights Movement, and the first African-American to graduate from The University of Mississippi, in 1963. In 1966, he decided to walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi in order to highlight the ongoing racial problems in the south. Unfortunately, his march ended just one day in, after he was shot. While he survived, his wounds were painful, and he was not able to go back to his route immediately. Several other organizations seized the opportunity to continue his quest, and soon Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, and others were poised to walk part of Meredith's path. Various organizations wanted the march to highlight different things-- from voter registration to the passage of the Civil Rights Bill, the march was an opportunity to highlight any number of causes of note at the time. While Meredith hadn't wanted to include women and children, fearing for their safety, the march soon encompassed many types of people. There were many altercations between marchers, members of the communities through which it passed, and law enforcement. This led some of the marchers, like Stokely Carmichael, to draw attention to the continuing inequities in the south and to demand black power. This was a divisive move, since it alienated some of the white marchers who had come to support the march. The March Against Fear is now regarded as one of the more important marches of the era, and it's good to have such a definitive explanation of its events.
The inclusion of many photographs along with the scenes describing them are welcome and essential. The world looked very different in 1966, from the way people dressed to the cars on the road, and children have a hard time visualizing how different things were. Pictures help tremendously with that.
I am always surprised at how much I don't know about this era, even though I have read a fair number of books on the topic. There were a number of things that I learned-- from the grouping of The Big Five organizations (SCLC, SNCC, NAACP, CORE and National Urban League) to the feelings of supporters of the movement.
Older middle school students and high school students who want to know more about Civil Rights History will be wise to add The March Against Fear to their reading lists along with Levinson's We've Got a Job, Osborne's Miles to Go for Freedom, Rubin's Freedom Summer, Lowery's Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, and Wallace's Blood Brother.