The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy
By Bruce Watson
(Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670021703, 384pp.)
Publication Date: June 10, 2010
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A majestic history of the summer of '64, which forever changed race relations in America
In the summer of 1964, with the civil rights movement stalled, seven hundred college students descended on Mississippi to register black voters, teach in Freedom Schools, and live in sharecroppers' shacks. But by the time their first night in the state had ended, three volunteers were dead, black churches had burned, and America had a new definition of freedom.
This remarkable chapter in American history, the basis for the controversial film Mississippi Burning, is now the subject of Bruce Watson's thoughtful and riveting historical narrative. Using in- depth interviews with participants and residents, Watson brilliantly captures the tottering legacy of Jim Crow in Mississippi and the chaos that brought such national figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pete Seeger to the state. Freedom Summer presents finely rendered portraits of the courageous black citizens-and Northern volunteers-who refused to be intimidated in their struggle for justice, and the white Mississippians who would kill to protect a dying way of life. Few books have provided such an intimate look at race relations during the deadliest days of the Civil Rights movement, and Freedom Summer will appeal to readers of Taylor Branch and Doug Blackmon.
Bruce Watson is an award-winning journalist whose articles have been published in Smithsonian, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Examiner, Yankee Magazine, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003.
"Recreates the texture of that terrible yet rewarding summer with impressive verisimilitude."
"Remarkable...a well-researched, vivid retelling of the 1964 civil rights crusade to put Mississippi's 200,000 disenfranchised blacks on the voting rolls...[an] important book."
-San Francisco Chronicle
"Elegantly written...A fascinating look at ordinary people at their best and worst...Riveting."
"An amazing account of one pivotal summer in the history of civil rights...with a thriller's pacing, the book forcefully describes the depravity and treachery behind the bombings, beatings and intimidation...and shows the physical and emotional costs of such a fight."
-The Minneapolis Star-Tribune