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.

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‘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

LGBT History Month

February is LGBT History Month here in the UK – a month dedicated to celebrating the lives and achievements of the LGBT community. And what better reason to celebrate than to look at the huge amount of progress made in the fight against HIV and AIDS since its origins in the late 1970s/early 1980s?

When AIDS was claiming the lives of its first sufferers in 1980s America, it was largely ignored as a ‘homosexual problem’ – the ‘gay plague’ was of little concern or interest to many of the health professionals, politicians, or members of the public.

When the numbers of deaths kept rising, it wasn’t until heterosexual members of the public were at risk that the media sat up and started to pay attention. Only when it became clear that AIDS could be transferred through blood transfusions did people start to listen. But this delay cost lives. Thousands of them. Maybe hundreds of thousands.

At the start of the month, former New York City mayor Ed Koch died at the age of 88. He was mayor in NYC at the time of the onset of the AIDS epidemic, and did practically nothing about it. Certainly, nothing that cost money, nothing concrete. Theories abound regarding his sexuality – whether his lack of action around the AIDS epidemic was to keep his own sexuality under wraps by paying little attention to the ‘gay health crisis’. Whatever the reason, it is clear that his lack of real, decisive action cost the lives of many thousands of New Yorkers. (For more information about Ed Koch and his AIDS legacy, this article is well worth a read)

But how far we have come, medically, socially and politically. In the UK there is comprehensive medical care available, including taking care of your mental health as well as your physical health. (Please note: I have no first-hand experience of this – my only knowledge is through following this blog, and his related Twitter account.) We have openly gay celebrities, sportsmen and sportswomen, even MPs. While we do not yet have laws in place that will allow equal marriage, steps have been made in the right direction. Civil partnerships are a start, but many believe they don’t go far enough. Whatever your personal beliefs, it is clear that the progress being made is real, and that it will continue.

This February for LGBT History Month I will be celebrating how much progress has been made here in the UK for the gay community, particularly in terms of health and health education. What about you?

Related reading:

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON by Randy Shilts. The definitive history of the origins and spread of AIDS in the 1980s. A masterpiece of investigative journalism, a book that will stay with you for a long time.

CITY OF NIGHT by John Rechy. The book that lifted the lid on the gay sexual subculture in 1960s America. A groundbreaking novel and an enduring classic.

And the Band Played On by Randy ShiltsCity of Night by John Rechy

Holocaust Memorial Day 2013

This Sunday, 27th January, is Holocaust Memorial Day 2013. Souvenir Press has two eye-opening books on the tragedies and atrocities faced by Jews all over Europe during the 1940s.

Ashes in the Wind by Dr Jacob Presser is a first-hand account of the tragedy of 1940-45. Beginning in 1940, 110,000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands to concentration camps. Of those, fewer than 6,000 returned. Ashes in the Wind is a monumental history of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and a detailed and moving description of how the Nazi party first discriminated against Jews, before segregating them and finally deporting them to the gas chambers (a process fully outlined in the mass of administrative documents discovered by Dr Presser). At a time when there are increasingly fewer survivors of the Holocaust the eye-witness accounts and contemporary descriptions in Ashes in the Wind powerfully outline, for future generations, the process of dehumanisation, and the silent conformity by Dutch civilians, that allowed the Holocaust to happen.

Address Unknown by Kressmann Taylor is a rediscovered classic, originally published in 1938 – and now an international bestseller. Described by the New York Times Book Review as “the most effective indictment of Nazism to appear in fiction”, Address Unknown is written on the eve of the Holocaust as a series of letters between an American Jew and his German friend. It is a haunting tale of immense and enduring impact, exposing the poison of Nazism. This memorable story survives in an age of racial, ethnic and nationalistic intolerance as a searing reminder that history can repeat itself.

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World AIDS Day 2012: What will you be reading?

December 1st is World AIDS Day, an opportunity to raise awareness and to unite people the world over in the fight against HIV and AIDS. As the world looks forwards, searching for a cure for AIDS, we must also remember to look back, to see where this disease came from.

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON by Randy Shilts is the definitive history of the spread of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, which brought this disease to international attention. From 1982 Shilts devoted himself to covering the story of the disease and its medical, social and political implications. A masterpiece of investigative journalism, weaving together the personal stories of those in the gay community and the medical and political establishments with political and social reporting, he exposes how AIDS was ignored, or denied, by many national institutions.

“An astounding piece of investigative journalism, a must-read for those who seek to understand the nature of this dark chapter in gay history.” — Attitude

“A heroic work of journalism on what must rank as one of the foremost catastrophes of modern history.” — The New York Times

Author Randy Shilts was the first openly gay journalist in America. While writing this book he refused to find out his own HIV status, for fear that the knowledge would compromise his journalistic integrity. Tragically, he was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1987, after the completion of AND THE BAND PLAYED ON, and he died in 1994. His legacy remains: a frighteningly powerful report of the origins of the AIDS epidemic, essential reading for all.

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.