Library Additions–November 2016 (1)

Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s
Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s

Thank you to the good folks at LSU Press for sending a review copy of Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s written by Stanley Nelson.

After midnight on December 10, 1964, in Ferriday, Louisiana, African American Frank Morris awoke to the sound of breaking glass. Outside his home and shoe shop, standing behind the shattered window, Klansmen tossed a lit match inside the store, now doused in gasoline, and instantly set the building ablaze. A shotgun pointed to Morris’s head blocked his escape from the flames. Four days later Morris died, though he managed in his last hours to describe his attackers to the FBI. Frank Morris’s death was one of several Klan murders that terrorized residents of northeast Louisiana and Mississippi, as the perpetrators continued to elude prosecution during this brutal era in American history.

In Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s, Pulitzer Prize finalist and journalist Stanley Nelson details his investigation—alongside renewed FBI attention—into these cold cases, as he uncovers the names of the Klan’s key members as well as systemized corruption and coordinated deception by those charged with protecting all citizens.

Devils Walking recounts the little-known facts and haunting stories that came to light from Nelson’s hundreds of interviews with both witnesses and suspects. His research points to the development of a particularly virulent local faction of the Klan who used terror and violence to stop integration and end the advancement of civil rights. Secretly led by the savage and cunning factory worker Red Glover, these Klansmen—a handpicked group that included local police officers and sheriff’s deputies—discarded Klan robes for civilian clothes and formed the underground Silver Dollar Group, carrying a silver dollar as a sign of unity. Their eight known victims, mostly African American men, ranged in age from nineteen to sixty-seven and included one Klansman seeking redemption for his past actions.

Following the 2007 FBI reopening of unsolved civil rights–era cases, Nelson’s articles in the Concordia Sentinel prompted the first grand jury hearing for these crimes. By unmasking those responsible for these atrocities and giving a voice to the victims’ families, Devils Walking demonstrates the importance of confronting and addressing the traumatic legacy of racism.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination Date

In December 2015 my wife and I visited Memphis and we were able to tour the National Civil Rights Museum, housed at the Lorraine Motel, where King was gunned down on April 4, 1968.

The exterior of the Lorraine Motel, home of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.
The exterior of the Lorraine Motel, home of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.

Just a few thoughts and then I will share some of the exterior photos I took. The admission charge of $15, while seemingly high, isn’t that unreasonable. This is not a state or federally operated museum. According to their website, the state owns the property and the museum is operated by a 501 (c)(3) not for profit organization. This is where I take issue with the naming of the museum. The name implies a governmental endorsement but that does not appear to be the case. In addition, with the modern emphasis on Civil Rights for all people, the naming of the museum should more reflect the goal of the museum, which is the education of visitors about the Civil Rights struggles for African-Americans.

As a final aside, we found the employees and volunteers to be standoffish and unhelpful. They were more interested in getting a tour group through rather than assisting those of us, and there were several, who were paying. The security checkpoint seemed overdone and the employee working it came off as dictatorial and rude. Those working in the gift shop were more interested in talking and socializing with each other and we left without making a purchase. As a museum junkie, that is something that seldom, if ever, happens.

On to the positives, and the museum itself is a positive. This is a wonderful place. The exhibits are well done, interesting, and this is overall truly a gem of a museum; a true must see for those interested in American history. One can not tour this facility without feeling a deep respect for what these men and women, young and old, black and white, went through in order to achieve what seems like such a basic thing to us today.

Must visit attractions include the Montgomery Bus Boycott exhibit, including a sculpture of Rosa Parks seated on a bus. We Are Prepared to Die: The Freedom Rides 1961 is a truly moving experience, bringing to life the horrors that were perpetrated upon those looking to secure the most basic of rights and freedoms. The Freedom Rides encountered violence on a scale I find unimaginable, having not lived through this era.

Looking across to the building where James Earl Ray fired his shot from.
Looking across to the building where James Earl Ray fired his shot from.

The true highlight of the visit however are seeing Dr. King’s room and the area from which James Earl Ray fired the shot that killed Dr. King. The room Dr. King was staying at was a basic room, nothing fancy. Room 306 is set up as it was the fateful date when Dr. King stepped out onto the balcony, thus meeting an assassin’s bullet. A visit to the Legacy Building is a must do as well. This allows you to see where Ray was staying and the vantage point he had when he fired his shot. In addition, there is a very interesting display covering the conspiracy theories associated with King’s killing. It is unfathomable that it took two months before Ray was captured in England after attempting to use a fake passport.

This is a well done museum that is worth a visit by anybody interested in American history. It covers an important subject, one which we should never forget. Some training of staff in basic customer service skills would go a long way toward making this a more enjoyable destination.

Entrance to the National Civil Rights Museum.
Entrance to the National Civil Rights Museum.
A close up of the outside of the Lorraine Motel and Room 306.
A close up of the outside of the Lorraine Motel and Room 306.
Showing the view of King's room.
Showing the exterior view of King’s room. Kings room overlooked the parking lot as shown.

Library Additions-February 2016 (1)

Here are a few books that are new to my library. I will be posting more library additions shortly; January was a busy month.

The cover for Lincoln's Bold Lion
The cover for Lincoln’s Bold Lion

Lincoln’s Bold Lion: The Life and Times of Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin written by James T. Huffstodt; published by Casemate Publishers. Cover price is $32.95.

I have a special interest in this book due to Hardin being buried in St. Augustine.

From the publisher: This is the first biography devoted to the life of a remarkable young man who, in the words of Civil War historian Ezra Warner, “embarked upon a combat career which has few parallels in the annals of the army for gallantry, wounds sustained, and the obscurity into which he had lapsed a generation before his death.”

Cover for And the Walls Came Tumbling Down
Cover for And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography written by Ralph David Abernathy. Cover price is $19.95.

Originally published in 1989, this beautifully written autobiography of the Rev. Dr. Ralph David Abernathy—Martin Luther King Jr.’s partner and eventual successor—not only tells his own story but also expounds on the leaders he knew intimately, including King, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, and Lyndon Johnson, among others. Revealing the planning that went into major protests and the negotiations that brought them to a close, Abernathy chronicles a movement, recalling the bitter defeats they faced, the misery and deaths they suffered. Amidst these struggles, though, he celebrates the victories that integrated communities, gave economic and political power to the disenfranchised, and brought hope to people who had not dreamed of it. Throughout, Abernathy’s close relationship with King is central to the story—and to the civil rights movement. In 1956, when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, it was Abernathy who enlisted King to join the protest. Together, they led the landmark bus boycott for 381 days, during which Abernathy’s house was bombed and his church dynamited. From there, the two helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and they were jailed together more than 40 times. Their protests and marches took them all over the South—Selma, Albany, Birmingham—and to Washington and Chicago as well. An unsung hero of his era, Abernathy’s inspiring memoir ultimately shows how their victories, and even their setbacks, led to social and legislative changes across the entire country.