In Search of the Movement: The Struggle for Civil Rights Then and Now
Benjamin Hedin went looking for the civil rights movement's past, but he also ran smack into the present, which can suddenly look like the past and then just as suddenly look totally different. By bringing stirring people like Septima Clark into focus, Hedin does what good historians do, but by entwining history with current events, he does a lot more. Here is a haunting meditation on living in history as well as with it.--Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln
In Search of the Movement is a true marvel. Benjamin Hedin's insightful combination of reportage and history of the Civil Rights movement allows us to see the era with fresh eyes. By tracing the continued legacy of the black freedom struggle from the 1960s to the present, this gem of a book wonderfully illuminates how the movement is living and thriving in our own time.--Peniel Joseph, author of Stokely: A Life and Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America
Beloved community and the exuberant humanism of the Civil Rights movement have never been so vividly rendered. Carry this book with you as a guide through our own anxious age. Beautifully written, sharply observed, whimsical and tender, In Search of the Movement is a road trip into America's better self.--Charles Marsh, author of God's Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights
In March of 1965, Martin Luther King led thousands in an epic march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery, in what is often seen as the culminating moment of the Civil Rights movement. The Voting Rights Act was signed into law that year, and with Jim Crow eradicated, and schools being desegregated, the movement had supposedly come to an end. America would go on to record its story as an historic success.
Recently, however, the New York Times featured an article that described the reversion of Little Rock's schools to all-black or all-white. The next day, the paper printed a story about a small town in Alabama where African Americans were being denied access to the polls. Massive demonstrations in cities across the country protest the killing of black men by police, while we celebrate a series of 50th-anniversary commemorations of the signature events of the Civil Rights movement. In such a time it is important to ask: In the last fifty years, has America progressed on matters of race, or are we stalled--or even moving backward?
With these questions in mind, Benjamin Hedin set out to look for the Civil Rights movement. I wanted to find the movement in its contemporary guise, he writes, which also meant answering the critical question of what happened to it after the 1960s. He profiles legendary figures like John Lewis, Robert Moses, and Julian Bond, and also visits with contemporary leaders such as William Barber II and the staff of the Dream Defenders. But just as powerful--and instructional--are the stories of those whose work goes unrecorded, the organizers and teachers who make all the rest possible.
In these pages the movement is portrayed as never before, as a vibrant tradition of activism that remains in our midst. In Search of the Movement is a fascinating meditation on the patterns of history, as well as an indelible look at the meaning and limits of American freedom.
Benjamin Hedin has written for the New Yorker, Slate, the Nation, and the Chicago Tribune. He's the editor of Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader, and the producer and author of a forthcoming documentary film, The Blues House.
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"Hedin takes us along on his journey, acknowledging his innocence and his (sometimes quite erroneous) assumptions. With equal parts curiosity and humility, he intertwines history and current events with his own thoughtful reflections. After scores of interviews and many thousands of miles clocked on the odometer, he slowly comes to feel that he 'had gotten a glimpse into the heart of things, as if a panel had been lifted and I could see the gears and knobs, all the workings that made the machine go.'"--Elaine Elinson, Truthdig
"Fusing the personal with the political, the present with the past, Benjamin Hedin has written a sober, touching elegy for our shared history. In Search of the Movement is needed and essential, and it could not have come at a better time."--Said Sayrafiezadeh, author of Brief Encounters With the Enemy and When Skateboards Will Be Free
"A deeply intelligent writer and reporter, Benjamin Hedin repositions the civil rights movement as an ongoing crusade, a moral and political struggle that was seeded in the 1950s and 60s, but continues to develop in complicated, hopeful, and heartbreaking ways. In Search of the Movement is a bold and exploratory book, as much about Hedin's journey--to reconcile an American past with the American present--as anything else. It reads like both a salve and guide for these heady times; I couldn't put it down."--Amanda Petrusich, author of Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records
"A journalistic foray into the work of unsung heroes in the civil rights struggle, then and now. In this slender disquisition, journalist, teacher, editor, and documentary film producer Hedin (Studio A: A Bob Dylan Reader, 2004) ponders why the civil rights movement has petered out when so much still needs to be done. The answer, of course, is that it has not ceased--though the changes are often wrought subtly and behind the scenes, as the author ably uncovers through his research. Traditionally, the perimeters of the movement range from Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and Rosa Parks' arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, and end with Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in Memphis in 1968. While Hedin acknowledges the enormous changes that took place within that frame--nonviolent boycotts, sit-ins, marches, and demonstrations ultimately forced the government to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and begin the process of desegregation in schools and other institutions--so much still begs to be done. The evidence is abundant: intractable inequality in education, the killing of unarmed young black men by police forces, and the strictures on voter registration in such conservative states such as North Carolina. Hedin pursues the sadly dwindling members of the so-called Moses Generation--e.g., Robert Moses and David Dennis, former leaders of the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964, and Congressman John Lewis, who helped lead the marchers across Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965; and others now deceased and unheralded, such as Charleston native Septima Clark, who pioneered 'citizenship schools' on Johns Island and elsewhere. Hedin champions the work of dogged current organizers like Jessie Tyler of Ruleville, Mississippi, who scours the direly impoverished Delta counties to help people sign up for health care, which the author firmly believes is a civil right. Thoughtful essays on this significant struggle, ongoing and continuous."--Kirkus Reviews
"We tend to think of paradigm-shifting history as isolated events of singular importance enacted by powerful individuals. In Civil Rights history, we identify Rosa Parks, the Greensboro Four at the Woolworth's Sit-Ins, or Martin Luther King Jr. at Selma as moments that everything began to change. Benjamin Hedin insists that we remember the hundreds of hours of meetings and planning sessions and forgotten beatings that led to the iconic event. The summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the streets. Or meeting in a church basement."--Brian Lampkin, Co-Owner, Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC