cover image The Movement Made Us: A Father, a Son, and the Legacy of a Freedom Ride

The Movement Made Us: A Father, a Son, and the Legacy of a Freedom Ride

David J. Dennis Jr., with David J. Dennis Sr. HarperCollins, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-301142-7

The heavy toll exacted by the fight against Jim Crow is tallied in this gripping memoir. Dennis Jr. reconstructs the experiences—with details tweaked and dialogue “polished”—of his father, Dennis Sr., an official for the Congress of Racial Equality who organized lunch counter sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and voter registration drives in Louisiana and Mississippi from 1961 to 1964. Dennis Sr. confronted vicious white mobs and menacing sheriffs on backwoods roads; was beaten, jailed, and threatened with death; and suffered immense grief and guilt following the murders of his colleague Medgar Evers and Freedom Summer workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman. Recollections brought to life in subtle and evocative prose—as Dennis Sr. departed for Mississippi, he recalls, “my mother was trying to hum church songs to herself, but I could hear her voice wavering underneath her harmonies”—paint him and his fellow activists as heroic but fallible, often terrified of the dangers inherent in their work and resentful of leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., when they seemed to be dodging those risks. As he hardened himself to the necessity of ordering volunteers to undertake perilous organizing missions, he felt that he was “losing [his] humanity.” This captures a remarkably intimate and vivid portrait of the human side of the civil rights movement. (May)