Black History Month: Stride Toward Freedom

It’s still Black History Month here in the UK. Last year we featured here on our blog four recommended books – read our two blog posts for Black History Month 2012 here and here. This year we’ll give you a more in-depth look at each of these four books.

In the spotlight last week we featured Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, the diary of a white man who travelled through the Deep South of the 1950s disguised as a black man. Read last week’s Black History Month blog here.

This week, take a look at Stride Toward Freedom by Martin Luther King, Jr. Described by ‘Black History Live’ as “telling the inspiring story of the Civil Rights movement… A very important and moving book which tells the story of the movement that transported and changed not only America but globally”, it is published as part of our Independent Voices series, highlighting its continued cultural importance.

This is Martin Luther King Jr’s account, in his own words, of the origins of the Civil Rights movement in America which culminated in his 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

It starts with a story we all know: on December 1st 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. What follows is the unique story of King’s involvement of the budding Civil Rights movement, right from the start. With King at the head, the black community of Montgomery organised a year-long boycott of the bus service: the first large-scale, non-violent protest against racial segregation of its kind in America.

“This book is an account of a few years that changed the life of a Southern community, told from the point of view of the participants… it is the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of non-violence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their human worth.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Preface to Stride Toward Freedom

At the time of the Montgomery bus boycott King was only 26 years old. Within a year he was a national figure and a leader of the Civil Rights movement. Nine years later, in 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And only four years later than that, he was assassinated, on April 4th 1968, aged only 39.

What better way to celebrate Black History Month than to look back at where it all began, sowing the seeds that would grow into the Civil Rights Movement in America?

Stride Toward Freedom by Martin Luther King, Jr. is a thought-provoking read, a doorway into history, perfect for Black History Month.

Visit the Black History Month website.

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Black History Month 2013: Black Like Me

October here in the UK is Black History Month. Last year we featured here on our blog four recommended books for you: STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM by Martin Luther King, Jr, BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin, SOFT VENGEANCE OF A FREEDOM FIGHTER by Albie Sachs, and THE HORN by John Clellon Holmes. Read our two blog posts for Black History Month 2012 here and here. This year we’ll give you a more in-depth look at each of these four books.

In the spotlight today is BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin. The diary of a white man who travelled through the Deep South of the 1950s disguised as a black man, it is required reading in schools and colleges in the United States, but has only recently been made available in the UK for the first time in decades, as part of Souvenir Press’ Independent Voices series.

The book starts in October 1959, when Griffin begins his transformation. He artificially darkens his skin and starts out in New Orleans, passing as a black man. He documents his struggle to find work, and the struggle of day-to-day living in the segregated Deep South. From finding a place to stay, to something as basic as finding a bathroom to use or somewhere to buy a glass of water, life as a black man is a series of struggles – some he was aware of before, as a white man, and some which are entirely new. And that’s in the city, where black men admit that they have made “progress” and are treated much better than their counterparts in rural areas.

For two months Griffin passes as a black man, travelling the southern states of America, documenting the varying reactions he receives from strangers. From “fellow” Negros – because at the time he was writing the term ‘African-American’ had not emerged – he found a sense of brotherhood, a community quick to help someone in need, but it was by no means a united community.

From white Americans he could experience everything from cautious politeness to outright hatred. He became accustomed to “hate stares” from whites, and in the worst states is even given a list of rules by a well-meaning Negro to help him “get by”. He’s told not to even look at a white woman, to look at the ground when walking, and to avoid alleyways when walking – he should walk in the middle of the street so as to avoid being beaten and mugged.

BLACK LIKE ME propelled Griffin to national fame for a while, but it provoked anger in equal measure, with Griffin enduring threats and physical violence in the aftermath of publication. Griffin died in 1980 at the age of 60 from complications relating to diabetes. Rumours circulated that his death was due to skin cancer caused by the drugs he used to darken his skin for BLACK LIKE ME, but in fact Griffin didn’t have skin cancer, and the only negative symptoms he experienced from the drugs were nausea and fatigue, and then the effects were only temporary.

Described by the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 as “one of the most extraordinary books ever written about relations between the races”, BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin is an eye-opening and thought-provoking read, perfect for Black History Month.

Visit the Black History Month website.

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WIN one of three copies of Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘Stride Toward Freedom’

On this day in 1963 Martin Luther King Jr delivered his historic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, the culmination of the American Civil Rights movement that transformed a nation:

I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Martin Luther King Jr’s involvement in the American Civil Rights movement is documented in his own words, sharing his own stories and experiences, in his book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s most famous speech, we are giving away three copies of Stride Toward Freedom.

To be in with a chance of winning, simply fill in the form below, telling us when it was that Martin Luther King Jr delivered his famous speech*. Competition closes at 9am (UK time) on 2nd September 2013.

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*Winners will be picked at random. One entry per person.

‘I Have a Dream’ – 50 years on

Tomorrow, 28th August, marks 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in Washington DC in 1963.

A defining moment in the American Civil Rights movement, the fiftieth anniversary of this speech is being celebrated in the national and international media. BBC Radio 4 will mark the anniversary with a broadcast of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech with a recital by Martin Luther King Jr and notable figures, including the Dalai Lama, Doreen Lawrence, US Congressman John Lewis and Nobel laureate John Hume.

TIME magazine’s current issue is a special commemorative issue, with nearly 80 pages dedicated to celebrating the speech and its continuing impact today. Maya Angelou and Malala Yousafzai are among those who have contributed to TIME’s article, ‘What King’s Words Mean To Me’.

The Observer was one of the earliest media outlets to pick up the story here in the UK, running a special commemorative supplement on 11th August.

And here at Souvenir, we publish Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, which is Martin Luther King, Jr’s account in his own words of the origins of the American Civil Rights movement which culminated in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963. Detailing King’s own experiences and stories, Stride Toward Freedom documents the beginning of a national Civil Rights movement based on King’s principles, and cemented King’s position at the head of this movement.

This most important book, telling King’s story and detailing the origins of the American Civil Rights movement in his own words, is available in paperback and ebook.

Why not celebrate 50 years of ‘I Have a Dream’ with Stride Toward Freedom and Souvenir Press?

“It’s still shocking to read this account, detailing the overt racism of the time… King, of course, was one of the finest orators of the 20th century, but passion pours from his pen, too.” – ‘The Crack’

“Telling the inspiring story of the Civil Rights movement… A very important and moving book which tells the story of the movement that transported and changed not only America but globally.” – ‘Black History Live’

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Related blog posts:
Black History Month (part 1)
Black History Month (part 2)
Happy Birthday to Martin Luther King Jr

Happy Birthday to Martin Luther King Jr.

Today would have been the 84th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr, leader of the Black Civil Rights movement in America.  One of the greatest orators in American history, remembered for his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated on April 4th 1968.

His book STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM is published as part of the Independent Voices series by Souvenir Press, dedicated to publishing writers who provide alternative viewpoints and challenge conventional wisdom.

Martin Luther King, Jr. described STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM as “the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of non-violence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth.”

On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Rallied by the young preacher and activist Martin Luther King, Jr., the black community of Montgomery organised a historic boycott of the bus service, rising up together to protest racial segregation. This was the first large-scale, non-violent resistance of its kind in America and marked the beginning of a national Civil Rights movement based on Martin Luther King, Jr’s principles.

STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM is the account of that pivotal turning point in American history told through Martin Luther King’s own experiences and stories, chronicling his community’s refusal to accept the injustices of racial discrimination.

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Black History Month (part 2)

As October is celebrated as Black History Month here in the UK, we at Souvenir Press have put together a few book recommendations for you. You can find the first part of this post series here, where we recommended the fantastic BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin, and the equally brilliant A SOFT VENGEANCE OF A FREEDOM FIGHTER by Albie Sachs.

We now have two more titles to recommend to you as part of our Black History Month series of blog posts.

STRIDE TOWARDS FREEDOM – Martin Luther King Jr.

“Telling the inspiring story of the Civil Rights movement… A very important and moving book which tells the story of the movement that transported and changed not only America but globally”. – ‘Black History Live’

This is the account of the birth of a national Civil Rights movement in America, that pivotal turning point in American history, told through Martin Luther King Jr’s own experiences and stories, chronicling his community’s refusal to accept the injustices of racial discrimination. He described ‘Stride Toward Freedom’ as “the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of non-violence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth.”

THE HORN – John Clellon Holmes

“This is a book you can return to again and again just for the writing alone… Holmes is a writer, not a musician, but somehow he captures the life of a jazz musician in the first half of the twentieth century… It should be on the reading list of anyone who cares about jazz.” – http://www.sandybrownjazz.co.uk

Edgar Pool is the Horn, the greatest tenor saxophonist of his generation, the man who created bop and who has become a myth for younger musicians. The Horn lives no life but jazz, his nights are spent in the crowded nightclubs of New York where the wistful, throaty sounds of his saxophone speak of the desires and pasts of his audience. After being out-played for the first time by a younger man the Horn sets out to stumble through New York for the last time. As his friends and lovers search for him they remember his life, and try to find the truth of his brilliant and tragic career. The Horn is a brilliant evocation of the world of jazz and a vivid memorial to the musicians who created it.

Black History Month

Here in the UK, October is Black History Month, and here at Souvenir Press we’ve got a great selection of titles to recommend! We will highlight four fantastic titles over the course of the month – two in this post, and two to follow in a later post. So join us as we celebrate Black History month here at Souvenir Press!

BLACK LIKE ME – John Howard Griffin

One of the most extraordinary books ever written about relations between the races. – The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4.

In 1959, before the Civil Rights movement spread across the United States, John Howard Griffin underwent medical treatments to disguise himself as a black man. He then travelled through the segregated Deep South of America, exchanging the privileged life of a white man for the disenfranchisement of the black man, and experienced the racism that was endured by millions on a daily basis. From the threat of violence to the indignities of being unable to use a drinking fountain or buy food from a particular shop Griffin documented his experience of racism and opened the eyes of white America to the abuses going on in their country.

THE SOFT VENGEANCE OF A FREEDOM FIGHTER

An extraordinary man, a living testimony to the belief that the human spirit can overcome all adversity… That he survived not just to exist but make so fulsome a contribution to the life of a new, altogether better South Africa is a triumph. – The Independent

In 1988 after decades as an anti-apartheid activist, Albie Sachs lost his right arm and an eye when his car was blown up by South African security agents. This is his own moving account of his recovery in and his gradual re-entry into life and politics and the parallel emergence of an apartheid-free South Africa. Sachs writes of his years spent working for justice in South Africa, as well as expressing his euphoria at finding himself alive day after day. Was it worth it? he asks. His unforgettable and inspiring answer is a resounding yes . The soft vengeance he has achieved is not to inflict pain and injustice on those who attacked him but to help in the creation of a society where humanity and justice triumph over cruelty and racist division.