Reviews for Down to the Crossroads : Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear

Booklist Reviews 2013 December #1
Though he was viewed as a civil rights champion for his 1962 campaign to integrate Ole Miss, when James Meredith undertook his long walk across Mississippi to encourage voter registration by black citizens in 1966, he was not regarded as a civil rights leader. His loner status kept him out of the inner circle of recognized leaders, yet when he was nearly assassinated one day into the walk, luminaries from Martin Luther King Jr. to Stokely Carmichael stepped in to take up the march, ultimately making it a turning point in the civil rights movement. Goudsouzian examines the tensions that were brewing between King, Carmichael, and others as the movement sorted itself into different philosophical camps--primarily integrationists versus separatists--with corresponding debates about the most effective strategies, setting the stage for the next phase of the era and the rise of the black power movement. He highlights the contentious debates among movement leaders, the courage they inspired among rural demonstrators, and the fierce resistance they faced from segregationists. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 December #1
Evenhanded look at the many complicated tenets of the civil rights movement that converged with James Meredith's march from Memphis to Jackson, Miss., in June 1966. The early successful cohesion of nonviolent demonstration in the movement was fraying from emerging militancy, outcry over the Vietnam War and government inattention. Goudsouzian (History/Univ. of Memphis; King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution, 2010, etc.) brings these uneasy strands together in the Meredith March, as it was called. In 1962, Meredith was the first black man to challenge segregation at the University of Mississippi; a celebrated and somewhat misunderstood activist loner, Meredith had resolved to march through the Mississippi delta alone or with a few black men in order to "challenge that all-pervasive fear that dominates the day to day life of the Negro," as well as galvanize black voter registration. The intended march was more or less ignored by the civil rights establishment, who dismissed Meredith as opportunistic or a little kooky, until a white man shot him on the first leg of the march. First reports stated that Meredith was dead, another casualty who had dared to challenge Jim Crow. Though he was only wounded, other leaders were shocked into action and resumed his crusade: first, Floyd McKissick of the Congress of Racial Equality; then, Martin Luther King Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference; followed by the increasingly militant Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Each of the leaders, in the process of profound change to his respective group, found it opportune to continue on Highway 51, astounding passersby with their singing, descending on courthouses to register black voters and refusing to be intimidated by angry whites. A textured exploration of the significant players and events at this key juncture in American history. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 November #1

After civil rights leader James Meredith was shot and injured while marching from Memphis to Jackson, his contemporaries flocked to Mississippi to take up his torch, resulting in a three-week demonstration that resisted brutal attacks from state police and brought together old guard and new.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 November #4

As James Meredith walked along Highway 51 on day two of the titular June 1966 march, a white Mississippian named Aubrey Norvell shot him three times. Initial news reports erroneously declared Meredith's wounds fatal. Less than two months earlier, President Lyndon Johnson had submitted a new civil rights bill to Congress, and in early June he sponsored the White House Conference on Civil Rights. There, Meredith, an African-American Air Force veteran who integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962, announced his plan to walk on his own, unaffiliated with any particular organization, from Memphis, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss., to call attention to the pervasive fears of discrimination and racially motivated violence against African-Americans and to the continuing need for voter registration. Meredith left the hospital two days after the shooting, returning home to New York City to recuperate. In this riveting, well-told story, historian Goudsouzian (King of the Court) crisply describes how other spokesmen for civil rights jockeyed to make good use of the subsequent sympathetic publicity. The author also fleshes out the motivations of CORE national director Floyd McKissick, Martin Luther King Jr., and SNCC chairman Stokely Carmichael in pledging to carry on the march in Meredith's name. Illus. (Feb.)

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