The March Against Fear – Book Recommendation

Title: The March Against Fear – The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power

Author: Ann Bausum

Publisher: National Geographic

Ages: 11-18

Themes: civil rights movement, protesting, marching, black power, march against fear, James Meredith, Mississippi, 1966

………………………………………………………………..

Opening:

“There is nothing
more powerful to dramatize
an injustice like the
tramp tramp,
tramp,
tramp
of marching feet.”

Martin Luther King Jnr., June 7, 1966, at a rally in Memphis, Tennessee, during the March Against Fear

Synopsis:

James Meredith’s 1966 march in Mississippi began as one man’s peaceful protest for voter registration and became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. It brought together leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, who formed an unlikely alliance that resulted in the Black Power movement, which ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

The retelling of Meredith’s story opens on the day of his assassination attempt and goes back in time to recount the moments leading up to that event and its aftermath. Readers learn about the powerful figures and emerging leaders who joined the over 200-mile walk that became known as the “March Against Fear.” 

Thoughtfully presented by award-winning author Ann Bausum, this book helps readers understand the complex issues of fear, injustice, and the challenges of change. It is a history lesson that’s as important and relevant today as it was 50 years ago. (Goodreads)

Why I like this book:

I love what I learn from children’s books, both fiction and nonfiction. If you had asked me a month ago, I would have told you I had never heard of James Meredith, but that was before I read and reviewed, Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry, which creatively addresses issues of racism in part through flashbacks and a novel written about Meredith as the first black student to integrate into Ole Miss. In The March Against Fear, this creative nonfiction book picks up Meredith’s story a decade later when he initiates possibly the greatest and certainly the last march of protest of the civil rights movement from Memphis TN to Jackson MS in 1966. Three weeks after the march began, 15,000 people-including Meredith-completed it!

Meredith’s personal march to try and break the fear hold in the black community, and to promote voter registration is somewhat sidetracked after his being shot on day 2 and sidelined until almost the end of the march. The civil rights leaders who took over did not fully share Meredith’s military and individualistic approach, nor were they united amongst themselves. The author shows how this march was not only significant in its duration, size and numbers of voters who registered in Mississippi alone, but how it also signaled how the divisions and conflicting goals/messages between the key groups hinted that the decade long movement as it had been known was coming to an end. Other groups like the Black Panthers would emerge, much in response to the controversial call for Black Power of leader Stokely Carmichael during the March Against Fear.

This is so timely, too, in both the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and I believe in the some of the present gerrymandering and societal divisions we are experiencing.  When people are viewed as others, they stop being seen as fellow human beings and are judged by their differences instead of their commonalities. 

The narrative presentation of the facts is gripping, and this is the sort of book I would like to see in classrooms in every state in the nation, rectifying the myths of the Lost Cause that even if diluted, still sometimes make their way into history lessons. 

The black and white photos throughout and quotes from leader & supporters of the march, and the whites that felt threatened by it, add urgency to the message.

Resources/activities:

The back of the book has the Author’s Note which gives readers more insight about why the author felt burdened to tell this story.

Parents and teachers can use this book as a guide to open dialogue regarding present day racial (and other societal) tensions.

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2 Responses to The March Against Fear – Book Recommendation

  1. I agree with you. I have learned so much history through children’s historical fiction and nonfiction. Books today humanize history and make it so interesting for youth. I know absolutely nothing about James Meredith and his march in 1966. Will have to check this one out. These books are gems!

  2. Joanna says:

    They truly are, Pat. It does seem like this should be more at the forefront of wjat is taught in civil rights history.

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