Nobody Turn Me Around
A People's History of the 1963 March on Washington
By Charles Euchner
(Beacon Press, Hardcover, 9780807000595, 256pp.)
Publication Date: June 29, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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On August 28, 1963, over a quarter-million people—about two-thirds black and one-third white—held the greatest civil rights demonstration ever. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” oration. And just blocks away, President Kennedy and Congress skirmished over landmark civil rights legislation. As Charles Euchner reveals, the importance of the march is more profound and complex than standard treatments of the 1963 March on Washington allow.
In this major reinterpretation of the Great Day—the peak of the movement—Euchner brings back the tension and promise of that day. Building on countless interviews, archives, FBI files, and private recordings, Euchner shows freedom fighters as complex, often conflicted, characters. He explores the lives of Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the march organizers who worked tirelessly to make mass demonstrations and nonviolence the cornerstone of the movement. He also reveals the many behind-the-scenes battles—the effort to get women speakers onto the platform, John Lewis’s damning speech about the federal government, Malcolm X’s biting criticisms and secret vows to help the movement, and the devastating undercurrents involving political powerhouses Kennedy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. For the first time, Euchner tells the story behind King’s “Dream” images.
Euchner’s hour-by-hour account offers intimate glimpses of the masses on the National Mall—ordinary people who bore the scars of physical violence and jailings for fighting for basic civil rights. The event took on the call-and-response drama of a Southern church service, as King, Lewis, Mahalia Jackson, Roy Wilkins, and others challenged the throng to destroy Jim Crow once and for all.
Nobody Turn Me Around will challenge your understanding of the March on Washington, both in terms of what happened but also regarding what it ultimately set in motion. The result was a day that remains the apex of the civil rights movement—and the beginning of its decline.
Charles Euchner is the author or editor of eight books. A lecturer in writing at Yale University, Euchner was the founding executive director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at Harvard University. He lives in Hamden, Connecticut.
The landmark 1963 civil rights march was more than just "I have a dream," says historian Charles Euchner. His new book, Nobody Turn Me Around: A People's History of the 1963 March on Washington, relies on participants and attendees to tell the story of that fateful day. More at NPR.org
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"A sweeping, comprehensive look at a pivotal march in American history."
—Vanessa Bush, Booklist
"A short but dynamic account of the landmark 1963 protest march that ended with Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"This compelling history of the march on Washington is accessible to general readers, who will be moved at the emotional heights of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. Those who enjoy popular history will find much to like here, and students will appreciate the original research."
“Charles Euchner has turned the March on Washington into a ‘people’s history.’ Compelling and dramatic, this book is an important contribution.”
—Juan Williams, author of Eyes On The Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954–1965 and news analyst for NPR and FOX News
“The March on Washington was a demand to make the Constitution of the United States work for black people—to cash the blank check, as Dr. King put it that day in the best speech of his life. Nobody Turn Me Around—Charles Euchner’s superb book—brings it all back in vivid detail.”
—Roger Wilkins, author of Jefferson’s Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism
“As was true of the historic March on Washington in 1963, so it is true of Charles Euchner’s riveting new chronicle of the event: the massive human train of proud and determined Americans—ordinary, salt-of-the-earth citizens—is the heart and soul of this dramatic and inspiring story. Now, more than forty-five years later, those same people stride through Euchner’s narrative as if it were a march in progress. The stars are here too, of course—Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin, Roy Wilkins, John Lewis, and more—but the pages crackle and vibrate with the voices of unsung heroes who drove, flew, rode buses and trains, hitchhiked, even walked long distances to be there in the Great Emancipator’s stone shadow as Dr. King spun out his immortal ‘Dream.’”
—John Egerton, author of Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South
“Nobody Turn Me Around brings important new insight to the story of the 1963 March on Washington. We see the Harlem Unity Rally, Malcolm X’s bitter answer to the historic events in D.C., the escalating violence in the South and the movement’s expansion to northern cities, and the genius of Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin’s organizing strategies. The book also settles the question of how Martin Luther King Jr. came to utter his iconic words about the dream—and shows how King used the speech to arouse his followers and neutralize the extremes of white racism and black separatism. Vivid storytelling at its best.”
—Alex Heard, author of The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South
“Nearly fifty years after the March on Washington, Charles Euchner has brought that historic event back to life by presenting a panorama of vivid characters, torn by discord over tactics yet united in their determination to shame a timorous government into stamping out Jim Crow.”
—Curtis Wilkie, author of Dixie: A Personal Odyssey Through Events That Shaped the Modern South