The civil rights movement was in the background of our lives from the time we were college students in the 1950s until Gail and I were a young married couple in the late 1960s. We were students at Memphis State University when that campus was integrated in 1959. In 1962 I was working in the Main Library of the Memphis Public Library system. One Saturday in March a group of African-American students from the local black colleges staged a sit-in at the library, which was for whites only. This demonstration was the second of its kind in the city following one at lunch counters downtown. In the fall of that year, my wife, Gail, acting as a stringer for UPI (United Press International), covered the landing of Federal troops headed to the University of Mississippi, where a riot was taking place over integration. Six years later we were still living in Memphis when Martin Luther King was assassinated.
Aside from Dr. King, Rosa Parks, termed by some “The mother of the civil rights movement,” is the best known persona of this period of Africa-American history. Noted historian Douglas Brinkley has written a short biography of Ms. Parks as part of the Penguin Lives Series.
Martin Luther King’s leadership and influence on the movement is portrayed in Taylor Branch’s trilogy: Parting of the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63; Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-1965; At Canaan’s Edge : America in the King years, 1965-68. Branch also sets the movement in the context of the history of the period. If Branch’s books are more information than you really want, try Juan Williams’ Eyes on the Prize, a book that written to accompany the PBS documentary of the same name.
Another valuable resource is On the Road to Freedom: a Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail. The author Charles C. Cobb, Jr., working in Mississippi as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC),was in the thick of the voting rights campaign in the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project.
One other source of e-books, full text articles, and videos is NCLive. You will need a password to access the NCLive website. The password is available from any library staff member. You can access e-books from home, although you will have to go the your local library to open an e-book account.