Cover image for The civil rights movement : an eyewitness history
The civil rights movement : an eyewitness history
Wexler, Sanford.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Facts on File, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 356 pages : illustrations, maps ; 29 cm.
Uses speeches, articles, and other writings of those involved to trace the history of the civil rights movement in the United States, primarily from 1954 to 1965.
Origins of the civil rights movement : 1865-1948 -- School desegregation and the Brown v. Board of Education decision : 1949-1954 -- Emmett Till case : 1955 -- Montgomery bus boycott : 1955-1957 -- Crisis at Central High : 1957-1959 -- Sit-ins and freedom rides : 1960-1961 -- Albany movement and James Meredith at Ole Miss : 1961-1962 -- Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Alabama : Spring 1963 -- March on Washington : 1963 -- Freedom summer : 1964 -- Selma and the Votings Rights Act : 1965 -- Legacy of the civil rights movement.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.61 .W548 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



The civil rights movement that spanned the years following the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 through the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 marked a watershed period for human rights in America. Julian bond, former communications director of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), notes in his introduction that the words civil rights summon up memories and images in modern minds of grainy television footage of packed mass meetings, firehoses and police dogs, of early 1960s peaceful protestors replaced over time by violent rioters, of soul-stirring oratory and bold actions, of assassination and death. The civil rights movement was also a movement of courage, of perseverance, of strength and of triumph. The Civil Rights Movement covers the key years from 1954 to 1965 in detail. It also traces the roots of the civil rights movement to the 19th century in the years following the Emancipation Proclamation through the Reconstruction period.

The Civil Rights Movement provides hundreds of firsthand accounts of the movement—from letters, speeches, newspaper editorials and press statements—that illustrate how historical events appeared to those who lived through them. Among the eyewitness testimonies included are those from Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X, President Lyndon Johnson, Stokely Carmichael, Rosa Parks and Ralph Abernathy.

In addition to the firsthand accounts, each chapter provides an introductory essay and a chronology of events. The book also includes such critical documents as the Formation of the NAACP, the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Southern Manifesto, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 as well as capsule biographies of more than 100 key figures, a bibliography, an index and 80 black-and-white photographs.

Eyewitness Testimony on the Civil Rights Movement:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing the ground. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand.

Frederick Douglass, August 3, 1857

The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.

W. E. B. DuBois, 1903

This is what I wanted to know: when and how would we ever determine our rights as human beings?...It just happened that the driver made a demand and I just didn t feel like obeying his demand. He called a policeman and I was arrested and placed in jail.

Rosa Parks, on why she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in
Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955

I believe in segregation. I think it s the best way, but I am a realist enough to believe that we will have total integration one day. It might not be in my lifetime or in my children s, but it will come. As the laws change to meet the times, I will support the law.

Laurie Pritchett, Albany, Georgia police chief, December 17, 1961

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveholders will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood...I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This work, as with others in the Eyewitness History series for young adults, aims to assist readers in the development of their historical imagination by providing direct quotations from selected documents of a period. Thus, one can read Rosa Parks' description of her weariness and resistance on that momentous bus ride or learn what it was like for Melba Patillo to be escorted into Central High School as one of nine black students accompanied by 22 soldiers. The excerpts are drawn from such primary sources as memoirs, diaries, letters, and news articles. An eloquent foreword by Julian Bond, a participant in the civil rights movement, reminds readers of the countless "ordinary women and men" who laid the groundwork for a national consensus for reform. The chapters are arranged chronologically beginning with the origins of the movement after the Civil War. Each chapter opens with a brief summary of the period followed by a "Chronicle of Events." The bulk of each chapter consists of a large number of quotations from eyewitness accounts, accompanied by black-and-white photographs. Extensive appendixes contain documents, such as the Thirteenth Amendment and the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Rights; brief biographies of major persons referred to in the text; acronyms; maps of sites; and an extensive bibliography of the sources quoted. There is sometimes oversimplification in the "Chronicle of Events" section in chapters. For example, it is misleading to give a single date and place for the founding of the Klan when this organization had three separate foundings. This timely source complements The Encyclopedia of African-American Civil Rights: From Emancipation to the Present [RBB Ag 92] and The Negro Almanac: A Reference Work on the African American (5th ed., Gale, 1991), both of which are better organized for checking specific facts. A similar book in the words of activists themselves is Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen Levine (Putnam, 1993). This very readable source deserves a place in every public and middle and high school library, though it may fit better in the circulating collection. The honest, angry, thoughtful, and sad words can be read by individuals of any age. The intention of the author to bring the reader into the historical moment is admirably realized. (Reviewed Nov. 15, 1993)

School Library Journal Review

YA-Letters, speeches, newspaper articles, and other primary sources are used to chronicle the civil rights movement in the U.S. from 1954-1965. In addition to the chronologically arranged text, more information is packaged concisely in the appendixes: pertinent documents, biographical sketches, acronyms for movement organizations, and maps of sites and events. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.