This remarkable chapter in American history, the basis for the controversial film Mississippi Burning, is now the subject of Bruce Watson's thoughtful and riveting historical narrative. Using in- depth interviews with participants and residents, Watson brilliantly captures the tottering legacy of Jim Crow in Mississippi and the chaos that brought such national figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pete Seeger to the state. Freedom Summer presents finely rendered portraits of the courageous black citizens-and Northern volunteers-who refused to be intimidated in their struggle for justice, and the white Mississippians who would kill to protect a dying way of life. Few books have provided such an intimate look at race relations during the deadliest days of the Civil Rights movement, and Freedom Summer will appeal to readers of Taylor Branch and Doug Blackmon.
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The civil rights movement, which aimed to deliver the rights assured black Americans in the post-Civil-War amendments, reached its peak of activity in the 1960's. The state of Mississippi, which along with Alabama was part of the Old Southwest, entered the Union in 1817 and was made rich by cotton before its economy was destroyed in the Civil War. Jim Crow laws were designed to deny their civil rights in the South, either directly or by indirect consequences. Martin Luther King Jr came to national prominence through the Montgomery Bus Boycott and remained the most influential Civil Rights leader until his assassination.