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Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Discussion: Civil Rights Inspired Books

Eyes on The Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965It is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and our library is open.  In honor of what Dr. King stood for, I would like to ask people to share their favorite Civil Rights Era books and films.

I will begin.  I was exposed to the wonderful PBS documentary series, Eyes on the Prize as a high school student.  I watched in again in college and it inspired me to write an undergraduate thesis on the documentaries of Ken Burns, who was extremely influenced by this film and its message.

I cannot stress enough how much this film affected me.  As a teenager, I was aware of the struggle of African Americans for equality in the decades before I was born, but this documentary series, with its clear chronological progression, striking images (both still and moving), and expert commentary, literally opened my eyes to the recent history of my country.  I understood history and its after-effects in a new way.  Eyes on the Prize not only inspired me to become an American Studies major and spend a year of my life studying documentary film, but it also led me to care about current events in a whole new way.  I needed to know what was happening "now" because it would become tomorrow's history.

In books, like many people, I loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett (use the link to see details), and the Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  But I also want to remind people to read To Kill a Mockingbird.  Although Harper Lee's novel takes place before the Civil Rights Movement, it is really a product of that era.  Lee published the novel in 1960.  This novel, a reflection on the racial issues of her own childhood in the South, could not help but to also be influenced by her personal experiences in her adulthood as the Civil Right Movement heated up.

So that's my opinion.  Now share yours.  For today's Monday Discussion, what books or films come to mind when you reflect on the Civil Right Movement?

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2 comments:

Becky said...

After posting I saw this list from the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/books/printersrow/chi-martin-luther-king-jr-day-read-01172011,0,1300045.story

John BPL RA said...

Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman. It's really outdated now. It's poorly written. It is overlooked, many times deliberately. It's not taken seriously, promotes violence, groups civil rights in with the anti-war and free speech movements. But it is still my favorite book from this era. Hoffman has an attitude and SPIRIT that other activists of the time, even Martin Luther King Jr., lack and makes for way better reading than an RFK speech. While others of the civil rights era protested against racist laws or policies, Hoffman protested against the entire culture. He'll never have his face on a postage stamp. Children will never have a day off of school in his honor. But that's OK. Levitating the Pentagon was more fun anyway.