My Mind Set on Freedom: A History of the Civil Rights Movement 1954-1968

John A. Salmond, Author Ivan R. Dee Publisher $22.5 (189p) ISBN 978-1-56663-140-2
Can the U.S. Civil Rights movement be captured in less than 200 pages? Salmond, an Australian history professor and author of five previous books including Gastonia, 1929, shows that it can. From the anti-segregation landmark Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 to the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and the subsequent passage of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, Salmond packs it all in. A brief preface and dense first chapter set the stage, beginning at the end of the Civil War. From 1954 on, Salmond manages a surprising amount of detail in such a small space. King is the central figure, as seems fitting, but other major and minor players are given their due. The book's thematic chapters inevitably overlap with the overall chronological arrangement, resulting in occasional repetitions. Thus, Ella Baker founds SNCC about a third of the way through and then again 20 pages later, etc. The concluding chapter assesses the movement's impact on the South--the main setting for most of the action--but northern and western states are scarcely even mentioned. Salmond's commentary throughout is astute but unobtrusive, always returning to the larger picture when analyzing the impact of a demonstration or speech or vote. Most impressive is his ability to capture excitement, anger and fear in such a slim volume. If you're after footnotes and minutiae--and photographs--keep looking. But this condensed history, based on an extensive bibliography, is a powerful education that deserves a wide audience. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/24/1997
Release date: 03/01/1997
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Paperback - 189 pages - 978-1-56663-141-9
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