In that best and worst of times for the South, the decade from 1955 to 1965, a remarkable drama unfolded. The best came out of “The Movement,” the loose coalition of civil-rights groups. The Movement’s young people, black and white, went into the Negro communities to persuade the people to organize, to march in peaceful demonstration, as a means of gaining back what the white man had taken away unlawfully in the first place —the right to vote, to dine and travel freely, to be decently schooled and treated with respect at the courthouse. The worst occurred in those towns and cities where the white community’s response to The Movement’s demand for freedom and justice was met with implacable hostility, intimidation, frequent violence, and, on occasion, murder.
No public issue survives clear-cut, without shading or contradiction, though it may appear so at the time—but later, history duly provides us with a necessary balance and complexity. We know now that the Ugly South of the sadistic sheriffs and sidewalk niggerhaters was one among many Souths. So was The Movement, and it too, for all its high purpose, had more than its share of internal conflicts. But the civil-rights struggle in the South during those years, as it worked itself out primarily in terms of The Movement confronting the Ugly South, brought us as close as we shall ever come to a clean division of justice and injustice. That is one reason why it has resulted in so many books, with many more to come....
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