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Forty years after surviving one of South Carolina's deadliest racial incidents, Carolina

professor Cleveland Sellers is still working for change. And so is his son Bakari, a University

law student and the state's youngest legislator.



Book by Cleveland Sellers, Jr.

The River of No Return

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Remembering the Orangeburg Massacre and Its Aftermath

Commentary Compiled by Rudolph Lewis


At the Center of Things

In 1967, while organizing students at South Carolina State University, Cleveland Sellers, Jr. was shot in a melee that later became known as the Orangeburg Massacre. Three students died, and many were wounded; Sellers alone was indicted and convicted for inciting a riot and served time in jail, as he had for resisting the draft, a case that was later dismissed.—Avery

Wounded during a confrontation between police and unarmed demonstrators that left three students dead and 27 injured on the S.C. State University campus, Sellers was charged with rioting, imprisoned for seven months by the state, and later pardoned. Those are the bare facts of a much larger tale of integrity and redemption, the saga of an individual who struggled for societal change during a tumultuous era in the South and passed on his ideals to a son who is now becoming a change agent in his own right.—

Seller’s activism and academic career have their roots in a fateful day in February 1968 when student protesters and state police clashed on the South Carolina State University campus. In what became known as the “Orangeburg Massacre,” three men were killed and 27 wounded, including Sellers. The only person arrested as a result of the incident, Sellers spent seven months in prison on rioting charges. Twenty-five years later he received an official pardon.— Wittenberg

As a young man, he was known for his involvement in the African-American Civil Rights Movement through SNCC. He was the only person convicted and jailed for events at the Orangeburg Massacre, a 1968 civil rights protest in which three students were killed by state troopers. Sellers' conviction and the acquittal of the other nine defendants was believed to be motivated by racism, and Sellers received a full pardon 25 years after the incident.—Encyclopedia

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Cleveland Sellers

“The Mississippi experience was almost like being in a war zone. You were constantly under attack. Our protection was with the black community. People would shelter us as we moved from house to house . . . that was our salvation”

First, the murder of Emmett Till, then images of students being beaten at lunch counter sit-ins, brought Cleveland Sellers to the movement for civil rights. At Howard University [1963], he joined student protests against segregation, picketing the Justice Department and the White House. On a march opposing the appearance of Alabama governor George Wallace in Cambridge, Maryland [May 1964], he was tear-gassed by National Guard troops. After the murders of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner [ June 21, 1964], Sellers went to Mississippi, becoming the SNCC project director there. Despite police and Klan violence and intimidation, SNCC set up community centers and freedom schools, organized civil rights actions, and even helped harvest crops. Later [8 February 1968], he was wounded by state trooper gunfire that killed three students at South Carolina State College after they had tried to desegregate a local bowling alley. Then he, not the police, was put on trial.—From the set: "Portraits: Social Activists of the Last Century."Flickr

Memorial Service Marks Anniversary Of Civil Rights Workers' Murders

PHILADELPHIA, MS - JUNE 19: Cleveland Sellers and Jesse Harris, former Freedom Riders and civil rights activists who worked with Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King, attend memorial services held in honor of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner on June 19, 2005 near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

The memorial coincides with the murder trial of Edgar Ray Killen, the first man ever indicted in the murders. The Freedom Riders gather each year to pay tribute to those killed for their work towards civil rights.—Life

The son of Cleveland and Pauline Taggart Sellers, Cleveland Sellers, Jr. was born in 1944 in Denmark, S.C., where his father was a businessman and his mother worked as a teacher at the South Carolina Area Trade School. Sellers attended local schools and started a student chapter of the NAACP. He attended Howard University [enrolled1962] and worked with the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in various civil rights causes around the South and was elected Program Secretary in 1965.—Avery

In 1960, in response to the Greensboro sit-ins, Sellers organized a sit-in protest at a Denmark, South Carolina lunch counter. At age 15, he was active for the first time with the Civil Rights movement. [After the 1960 protest, Sellers' father had forbidden his son's jeopardizing himself by becoming an activist.] During his boyhood, Sellers joined the Boy Scouts of America and attended the 1960 National Scout jamboree in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Although Sellers completed the requirements necessary to become an Eagle Scout, "his paperwork was lost" and he was not formally recognized with the honor until December 3, 2007 at 64 years of age, more than four decades after it was earned.—Wikipedia

Sellers . . . set out to study mechanical engineering at Howard University in Washington, D.C. But highly publicized lynchings and the slow pace of civil rights progress ate away at his sense of justice, and he volunteered for the 1964 Freedom Summer voter registration drive in Mississippi. There, searching for the bodies of three murdered student volunteers, Sellers got an up-close look at the dangerous world of civil rights activism.

“My parents were reluctant about me getting involved in civil rights,” Sellers said. “My dad wrote me a letter in 1964 and basically said, ‘Son, you've made your contribution—it's time to come home.'”

But Sellers was fully committed to the civil rights movement and soon became national program secretary of the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee . He became known for his unwavering resolve and willingness to communicate without bombastic words.

Returning to South Carolina in the late 1960s, Sellers was drawn to the student demonstrations in Orangeburg, S.C., that would lead to the Orangeburg Massacre—an incident that barely rippled the waters of the national press but later gained significance as a milestone in the history of American civil rights.—

In 1965 [Cleveland Sellers] became the program director of SNCC. In the summer of 1966, when Sellers heard of the attempted murder of James Meredith, he joined other civil rights campaigners, including SCLC's Martin Luther King, SNCC's Stokely Carmichael and Floyd McKissick in the march across Mississippi.

After the march, Sellers was with Carmichael when the term “black power” was first used. He was also one of the first members of SNCC to refuse to be drafted into the U.S. military as a protest against the Vietnam War.

The leadership of SNCC thought that the Johnson Administration was trying to silence SNCC by drafting its leadership. Sellers graduated from Howard in 1967. After graduation, he returned to South Carolina.—Encyclopedia

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An Official View of the Orangeburg Massacre

The Orangeburg massacre was an incident on February 8, 1968, in which nine South Carolina Highway Patrol officers in Orangeburg, South Carolina, fired into an armed and violent mob protesting local segregation at a bowling alley. Three men were killed and twenty-eight more injured, hitting most of them in their backs. After the shooting stopped, two others were injured by police in the aftermath and one, a pregnant woman, later had a miscarriage due to the beating. The incident pre-dated the Kent State shootings and Jackson State killings [editor's parenthesis]. . . .

[At a press conference the following day, Governor Robert E. McNair said the event was ". . .one of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina." McNair blamed the deaths on outside Black Power agitators, but subsequent investigations showed this allegation to be without basis and untrue.]

That night, students threw firebombs, bricks and bottles, and started a bonfire. As police attempted to put out the fire, an officer was injured by a thrown piece of banister. The police stated that they believed they were under attack by small arms fire. A newspaper report said “about 200 Negroes gathered and began sniping with what sounded like 'at least one automatic, a shotgun and other small caliber weapons’ and throwing bricks and bottles at the patrolmen.”

Protesters insisted that they did not fire at police officers, but did hurl various objects and insults at the police. Evidence that police were being fired at the time of the incident was inconclusive. While no evidence has been presented that protesters were armed or had fired on officers, a 1968 newspaper article reported that students threw firebombs at buildings and that the sound of apparent sniper fire was heard.

Officers fired into the crowd, killing three young men: Samuel Hammond, Henry Smith, both SCSU students, and Delano Middleton, a local student at Wilkinson High School. Twenty-eight others were wounded during the shooting or after in police abuse.—Wikipedia

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The Orangeburg Shootings

The shootings occurred two nights after an effort by students at the then almost all-black college to bowl at the city’s only bowling alley. The owner refused. Tensions rose and violence erupted.

When it ended, nine students and one city policeman received hospital treatment for injuries. Other students were treated at the college infirmary. College faculty and administrators at the scene witnessed at least two instances in which a female student was held by one officer and clubbed by another. After two days of escalating tension, a fire truck was called to douse a bonfire lit by students on a street in front of the campus. State troopers—all of them white, with little training in crowd control—moved to protect the firemen. As more than 100 students retreated inside the campus, a tossed banister rail struck one trooper in the face. He fell to the ground bleeding. Five minutes later, almost 70 law enforcement officers lined the edge of the campus. They were armed with carbines, pistols and riot guns—short-barreled shotguns that by dictionary definition are used “to disperse rioters rather than to inflict serious injury or death.” But theirs were loaded with lethal buckshot, which hunters use to kill deer. Each shell contained nine to 12 pellets the size of a .32 caliber pistol slug.

As students began returning to the front to watch their bonfire go out, a patrolman suddenly squeezed several rounds from his carbine into the air—apparently intended as warning shots. As other officers began firing, students fled in panic or dived for cover, many getting shot in their backs and sides and even the soles of their feet. Davis recalled in his oral history interview: “The sky lit up. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! And students were hollering, yelling and running. I went into a slope near the front end of the campus, and I kneeled down. I got up to run, and I took one step; that’s all I can remember. I got hit in the back.”

Later, Davis lay on the bloody floor of the campus infirmary, head to head with Hammond, a friend and quiet freshman halfback who also got shot in the back, and watched him die. Smith, a tall, slender ROTC student who had called his mother at two a.m. to tell her about the “shameful” beating of the female students by policemen, died after arriving at the hospital with five separate wounds. Middleton, a 200-pound high school football and basketball star whose mother worked as a maid at the college, died after asking her to recite the 23rd Psalm for him and then repeating it himself while lying on a hospital table with blood oozing from a chest wound over the heart.

Of 66 troopers on the scene, eight later told FBI agents they had fired their riot guns at the students after hearing shots. Some fired more than once. A ninth patrolman said he fired his .38 caliber Colt service revolver six times as “a spontaneous reaction to the situation.” At least one city policeman—he later became police chief—fired a shotgun.—Jack Bass, Niemanwweb

Two black demonstrators killed in the Orangeburg Massacre lie on the ground at the edge of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg on February 8, 1968. Following three days of protests, which began when blacks were barred from entering a bowling alley by the proprietor, state police and national guardsmen confronted demonstrators. Three students were killed and 27 wounded. Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

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The Aftermath

At the trial, the first federal trial of police officers for using excessive force at a campus protest, all nine defendants were acquitted. The activist Cleveland Sellers was the only person convicted and imprisoned (7 months) as a result of the incident. He represented the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was convicted of having incited the riot that preceded the shootings. In 1973 he wrote The River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC. Twenty-five years later, Sellers was officially pardoned. . . .

The shootings at Orangeburg predated the Kent State shootings and Jackson State killings. This was the first incident of its kind on a United States university campus. The Orangeburg massacre received relatively little media coverage.

Historian Jack Bass attributed the discrepancy in media coverage, compared to that for later events, to the fact that the victims at Orangeburg were young black men protesting local segregation. In addition, the shootings at Orangeburg happened at night, when media coverage was less. At Kent State, in contrast, the victims were young whites protesting an increasingly unpopular and highly politicized U.S. war in Vietnam. They were attacked by members of the National Guard, which the media may have judged a more inflammatory aspect of the shootings. Other analysts have noted that later events in 1968, such as the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and candidate Robert Kennedy, as well as the Tet Offensive overshadowed the events at Orangeburg.—Wikipedia

At a noon press conference the next day in Columbia, South Carolina, Governor Robert E. McNair called it “one of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina” and referred to “this unfortunate incident.” He expressed concern that the state’s “reputation for racial harmony had been blemished.” Contrary to all evidence, McNair also said the shooting occurred off campus. He placed blame on “black power advocates” and added other inaccurate embellishments.—Jack Bass, Niemanwweb

South Carolina State University's gymnasium is named in memory of the three men. A monument was erected on campus in their honor and the site has been marked. All-Star Triangle Bowl was integrated. The Floyd family has maintained ownership and operation of the business.

In 2001 Governor Jim Hodges was the first governor to attend the university's annual memorial of the event. That same year, on the 33rd anniversary of the killings, eight survivors told their stories at a memorial service. Robert Lee Davis told an interviewer,

"One thing I can say is that I'm glad you all are letting us do the talking, the ones that were actually involved, instead of outsiders that weren't there, to tell you exactly what happened." The state general assembly recently passed a resolution recommending that February 8 be a day of remembrance for the students killed and wounded in the protest.—Wikipedia

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Cleveland Sellers as Educator

In 1969, Sellers taught a black ideology course at Cornell University; and later received a Masters Degree from Harvard University. Living in North Carolina, he worked for the city of Greensboro in the Human Resources Department and later as a Housing Administrator; he became involved in many North Carolina related Civil Rights and black consciousness projects, including Malcolm X. Liberation University. He worked in Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 Presidential Campaigns and received his Ed. D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in education administration in 1987. He was pardoned for his conviction in the Orangeburg Massacre in 1993, and went on to become Director of African American Studies at the University of South Carolina.—Avery

[Sellers] is the Director of the African American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. His scholarly interests include recording the history of protest tradition, civil rights history, and the experiences of Africans in the Diaspora. He focuses on the oral history of African Americans who shaped the history of South Carolina, including cultural groupings and the languages of Gullah, Creole, and Ghegee. He also has studied the survival experiences of African Americans, sometimes recorded in folklore but often unrecorded. In 2008, Sellers was selected as president of Voorhees College in South Carolina.—Encyclopedia

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Cleveland Sellers as Husband and Father

Sellers and his wife Gwen have three children, two sons and a daughter. His youngest son is South Carolina state Rep. Bakari T. Sellers. At age 24 (DOB September 18, 1984), B.T. Sellers is one of the youngest state lawmakers in the United States. Elected in November 2006, he is still completing his law degree at the University of South Carolina.—Encyclopedia

Father and Son

Cleaveland Sellers and Bakari Sellers

By Chris Horn

Forty years after surviving one of South Carolina's deadliest racial incidents, Carolina professor Cleveland Sellers is still working for change. And so is his son Bakari, a University law student and the state's youngest legislator. Sellers plans to return to writing in the not-too-distant future, and looks forward to seeing his son carry the torch for improving lives and understanding among all South Carolinians. Bakari Sellers is eyeing graduation from law school this spring and plans to seek re-election to the House of Representatives in November. Like his father, he wants to see real change in society, especially in what he calls “a culture of low expectations.”

“I have a book project in mind, one that challenges black churches and the NAACP and issues a call to grass-roots activism. There were epic events in the mid 1960s in civil rights that changed society for the better,” Bakari said. “We need more of that boldness now.”

Jack Bass, a College of Charleston communications professor and former national journalist who co-wrote The Orangeburg Massacre, is impressed with the young Sellers. “Bakari is a one of the brightest, most capable young politicians I've ever seen. And I say that as someone who interviewed Bill Clinton when he was 27,” Bass said. “Bakari has a strong sense of values instilled by his parents; there is a strong moral component to his public policy.” So the story that began 40 years ago with a young man committed to the ideals of equality continues with his son who shares those same ideals. A torch from one generation has kindled a flame in the next.—

Orangeburg Massacre 40th Commemoration Ceremony

(Cleveland Sellers, Jr. Speaks)

Bakari Sellers interviewed by Julian Bond

Julian Bond interviews Bakari Sellers, a Democrat who represents District 90 in the South Carolina House of Representatives, in this installment of "Explorations in Black Leadership." Bakari Sellers became the youngest member of the South Carolina Legislature when elected in 2006 at age 22. He is the son of civil rights activist and educator Cleveland Sellers, who now serves as president of Voorhees College. The series is presented by the Institute for Public History at the University of Virginia.

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The River of No Return

The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC

By Cleveland Sellers and Robert Terrell

Among histories of the civil rights movement of the 1960s there are few personal narratives better than this one. Besides being an insider's account of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, it is an eyewitness report of the strategies and the conflicts in the crucial battle zones as the fight for racial justice raged across the South. This memoir by Cleveland Sellers, a SNCC volunteer, traces his zealous commitment to activism from the time of the sit-ins, demonstrations, and freedom rides in the early 60s. In a narrative encompassing the Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964), the historic march in Selma, the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and the murders of civil rights activists in Mississippi, he recounts the turbulent history of SNCC and tells the powerful story of his own no-return dedication to the cause of civil rights and social change.

The River of No Return is acclaimed as a book that is destined to become a standard text for those wishing to perceive the civil rights struggle from within the ranks of one of its key organizations and to note the divisive history of the movement as groups striving for common goals were embroiled in conflict and controversy. 

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The Orangeburg Massacre

By Jack Bass and Jack Nelson

In federal court more than a year later, a jury took less than two hours to acquit nine troopers charged with imposing summary punishment without due process of law. The trial uncovered stark facts about this armed attack on a college campus, and this evidence helped immeasurably in research that a fellow Nieman, Jack Nelson, and I did in writing The Orangeburg Massacre, a book first published in 1970. The book has been accepted by historians as the definitive account of what happened that night and of actions that took place in its aftermath.

In the fall of 1970, two-and-a-half years after the shooting, a jury in Orangeburg convicted Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr. of “riot” because of limited activity at the bowling alley two nights before the shooting. Sellers, who had grown up 20 miles from Orangeburg, had returned from the Deep South combat zone of the civil rights struggle as national program director for the militant Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The presiding judge threw out charges of conspiracy to riot and incitement to riot, but the charge of riot stood.

“Nobody here has ever put the defendant into the area of rioting on Wednesday or Thursday [the night of the shooting] with the exception that he was wounded and that to my mind means very little,” the judge commented. Sellers, who is profiled in the book as “the scapegoat,” served seven months of a one-year sentence in state prison, with early release for good behavior.

In a November 1970 report on the Sellers trial in the Southern Patriot, Dave Nolan (now a historian for civil rights and other issues in St. Augustine, Florida) wrote that had the shooting happened “earlier, there might have been a public outcry. But this was 1968, not 1964, and in the intervening years civil rights demonstrations had come to be seen as ‘riots’—and most whites seemed to feel that it was justified to put them down as brutally as possible.” He suggested that the slaughter of the Vietnam War had so brutalized the public mind as to make three black lives “seem that much less important.”—Jack Bass, Niemanwweb

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Documenting the Orangeburg Massacre

Campus killings of black students received little news coverage in 1968, but a book about them keeps their memory alive.—Essay by Jack Bass

Scarred Justice: the Orangeburg Massacre 1968 (video)

Scarred Justice brings to light one of the bloodiest tragedies of the Civil Rights era after four decades of deliberate denial.

Tyrone Caldwell, a student at South Carolina State College, shook his finger at law officers after arrests were made when black students were barred from an all-white, private bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina, February 6, 1968. Windows were smashed, cars overturned, and police hospitalized before the crowd dispersed. Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.

posted 9 February 2011

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A Day of Remembrance: the Orangeburg Massacre Archival Documentary 1-2 The Black Power Mixtape

James Loewen on telling the truth about Confederates

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompso

*   *   *   *   *

The Fiery Trial

Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

By Eric Foner

A mixture of visionary progressivism and repugnant racism, Abraham Lincoln's attitude toward slavery is the most troubling aspect of his public life, one that gets a probing assessment in this study. Columbia historian and Bancroft Prize winner Foner (Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men) traces the complexities of Lincoln's evolving ideas about slavery and African-Americans: while he detested slavery, he also publicly rejected political and social equality for blacks, dragged his feet (critics charged) on emancipating slaves and accepting black recruits into the Union army, and floated schemes for colonizing freedmen overseas almost to war's end. Foner situates this record within a lucid, nuanced discussion of the era's turbulent racial politics; in his account Lincoln is a canny operator, cautiously navigating the racist attitudes of Northern whites, proddedand sometimes willing to be proddedby abolitionists and racial egalitarians pressing faster reforms.

But as Foner tells it, Lincoln also embodies a society-wide transformation in consciousness, as the war's upheavals and the dynamic new roles played by African-Americans made previously unthinkable claims of freedom and equality seem inevitable. Lincoln is no paragon in Foner's searching portrait, but something more essential--a politician with an open mind and a restless conscience. 16 pages of illus., 3 maps.—Publishers Weekly

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The River of No Return

The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC

By Cleveland Sellers with Robert Terrell

Among histories of the civil rights movement of the 1960s there are few personal narratives better than this one. Besides being an insider's account of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, it is an eyewitness report of the strategies and the conflicts in the crucial battle zones as the fight for racial justice raged across the South.  This memoir by Cleveland Sellers, a SNCC volunteer, traces his zealous commitment to activism from the time of the sit-ins, demonstrations, and freedom rides in the early '60s. In a narrative encompassing the Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964), the historic march in Selma, the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and the murders of civil rights activists in Mississippi, he recounts the turbulent history of SNCC and tells the powerful story of his own no-return dedication to the cause of civil rights and social change.

The River of No Return is acclaimed as a book that is destined to become a standard text for those wishing to perceive the civil rights struggle from within the ranks of one of its key organizations and to note the divisive history of the movement as groups striving for common goals were embroiled in conflict and controversy.

*   *   *   *   *



Here lies Jim Crow: Civil rights in Maryland

 By C. Fraser Smith

Though he lived throughout much of the South—and even worked his way into parts of the North for a time—Jim Crow was conceived and buried in Maryland. From Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney's infamous decision in the Dred Scott case to Thurgood Marshall's eloquent and effective work on Brown v. Board of Education, the battle for black equality is very much the story of Free State women and men. Here, Baltimore Sun columnist C. Fraser Smith recounts that tale through the stories, words, and deeds of famous, infamous, and little-known Marylanders. He traces the roots of Jim Crow laws from Dred Scott to Plessy v. Ferguson and describes the parallel and opposite early efforts of those who struggled to establish freedom and basic rights for African Americans.

Following the historical trail of evidence, Smith relates latter-day examples of Maryland residents who trod those same steps, from the thrice-failed attempt to deny black people the vote in the early twentieth century to nascent demonstrations for open access to lunch counters, movie theaters, stores, golf courses, and other public and private institutions—struggles that occurred decades before the now-celebrated historical figures strode onto the national civil rights scene.

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Jefferson's Pillow

The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism

By Roger W. Wilkins

 In Jefferson's Pillow, Wilkins returns to America's beginnings and the founding fathers who preached and fought for freedom, even though they owned other human beings and legally denied them their humanity. He asserts that the mythic accounts of the American Revolution have ignored slavery and oversimplified history until the heroes, be they the founders or the slaves in their service, are denied any human complexity. Wilkins offers a thoughtful analysis of this fundamental paradox through his exploration of the lives of George Washington, George Mason, James Madison, and of course Thomas Jefferson. He discusses how class, education, and personality allowed for the institution of slavery, unravels how we as Americans tell different sides of that story, and explores the confounding ability of that narrative to limit who we are and who we can become. An important intellectual history of America's founding, Jefferson's Pillow will change the way we view our nation and ourselves.

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Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007

By Matthew Wasniewski

Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007 beautifully prepared volume—is a comprehensive history of the more than 120 African Americans who have served in the United States Congress. Written for a general audience, this book contains a profile of each African-American Member, including notables such as Hiram Revels, Joseph Rainey, Oscar De Priest, Adam Clayton Powell, Shirley Chisholm, Gus Hawkins, and Barbara Jordan. Individual profiles are introduced by contextual essays that explain major events in congressional and U.S. history. Part I provides four chronologically organized chapters under the heading "Former Black Members of Congress." Each chapter provides a lengthy biographical sketch of the members who served during the period addressed, along with a narrative historical account of the era and tables of information about the Congress during that time. Part II provides similar information about current African-American members. There are 10 appendixes providing tabular information of a variety of sorts about the service of Black members, including such things as a summary list, service on committees and in party leadership posts, familial connections, and so forth.

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Michelle Alexander: US Prisons, The New Jim Crow  / Judge Mathis Weighs in on the execution of Troy Davis

The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 

By Michelle Alexander

The mass incarceration of people of color through the War on Drugs is a big part of the reason that a black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The absence of black fathers from families across America is not simply a function of laziness, immaturity, or too much time watching Sports Center. Hundreds of thousands of black men have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed by whites. Most people seem to imagine that the drug war—which has swept millions of poor people of color behind bars—has been aimed at rooting out drug kingpins or violent drug offenders. Nothing could be further from the truth. This war has been focused overwhelmingly on low-level drug offenses, like marijuana possession—the very crimes that happen with equal frequency in middle class white communities.

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The Shadows of Youth

The Remarkable Journey of the Civil Rights Generation

By Andrew B. Lewis

With deep admiration and rigorous scholarship, historian Lewis (Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table) revisits the ragtag band of young men and women who formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Impatient with what they considered the overly cautious and accommodating pace of the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., the black college students and their white allies, inspired by Gandhi's principles of nonviolence and moral integrity, risked their lives to challenge a deeply entrenched system. Fanning out over the Jim Crow South, SNCC organized sit-ins, voter registration drives, Freedom Schools and protest marches. Despite early successes, the movement disintegrated in the late 1960s, succeeded by the militant Black Power movement. The highly readable history follows the later careers of the principal leaders. Some, like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, became bitter and disillusioned.

Others, including Marion Barry, Julian Bond and John Lewis, tempered their idealism and moved from protest to politics, assuming positions of leadership within the very institutions they had challenged. According to the author, No organization contributed more to the civil rights movement than SNCC, and with his eloquent book, he offers a deserved tribute.—Publishers Weekly

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Natives of My Person

By George Lamming

Natives of My Person focuses on slave traders of the sixteenth century. The novel reconstructs the voyage of the ship Reconnaissance, which is led by a character known as the Commandant. To atone for his past cruelties and barbarism, the Commandant plans to establish a Utopian society on the island of San Cristobal. The enterprise fails for many reasons: fighting amongst the crew, loss of interest, greed, and an inability to erase the past. The novel argues that an ideal society cannot be built by those who have committed moral atrocities and unnecessary bloodshed in their past. . . . Although Natives of My Person has a historical setting and deals with the voyage of the Reconnaissance, a vessel ostensibly engaged in the slave trade, a specific historical phenomenon, it is only partly accurate to describe it as a work of historical realism. Its realist component is not to be found in its fidelity to period costume, living conditions, or similar revealing detail. Instead of the veneer of verisimilitude that such usages provide, the novel locates its realism in the way in which it elaborately recapitulates an outlook.

George Lamming: Contemporary Criticism

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Season of Adventure

By George Lamming

First published in 1960, Season of Adventure details the story of Fola, a light-skinned middle-class girl who has been tipped out of her easy hammock of social privilege into the complex political and cultural world of her recently independent homeland, the Caribbean island of San Cristobal. After attending a ceremony of the souls to raise the dead, she is carried off by the unrelenting accompaniment of steel drums onto a mysterious journey in search of her past and of her identity. Gradually, she is caught in the crossfire of a struggle between people who have "pawned their future to possessions" and those "condemned by lack of learning to a deeper truth." The music of the drums sounds throughout the novel, "loud as gospel to a believer's ears," and at the end stands alone as witness to the tradition which is slowly being destroyed in the name of European values. Whether through literary production or public pronouncements, George Lamming has explored the phenomena of colonialism and imperialism and their impact on the psyche of Caribbean people.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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Home    Civil Rights: Struggle for Black Power    TableEdHistNegro  The Constitution and the Negro Table 

Related files: No Easy Victories (Damu)  From Tanzania to Kansas and Back   Sylvia Hill Post 6th PAC    From Atlanta to East Africa (Charlie Cobb)  

George Lamming and New World Imagination     Toward the Seventh PAC  Amite County   Beginning   Kish Mir Tuchas    David Parks' Letters (Julius Lester) 

The Death of Daddy (Julius Lester)