Recommended for readers 12+
In June 1966, activist James Meredith set out to walk from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi. He called it his Walk Against Fear; he wanted to conquer his own fears of walking through his home state; he wanted to encourage fellow African Americans to become voters: the Voter Registration Act had passed the year before, but the majority of African Americans had not yet registered, still living in fear of consequences they faced. Two days into his walk, James Meredith was shot in an assassination attempt. While Meredith recuperated, his cause was taken up by civil rights leaders of the day: Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael, and the ensuing March Against Fear became an historic march that included 15,000 people, resulted in 4,000 black voter registrations in Mississippi, and saw the rise of the Black Power movement.
Author Ann Bausum, who has connections to this history, captures the strife in Mississippi as whites and blacks clashed over civil rights. She looks at Meredith’s frustration at how his private stand grew into a full-scale movement, and at the discord between Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King: Carmichael’s desire for Black Power frightened whites who saw the movement as a possible militant uprising; King wanted to promote a nonviolent, peaceful march. Bausum also looks at why this march, of all marches, seems to have disappeared from history books – I certainly never learned about this one in school – and how we are still “trying to establish the essential truth that Black Lives Matter”.
An essential read for everyone. An essential addition to history classes in high school and college.