In 1963, the streams of religious revival, racial strife, and cold-war politics were feeding the swelling river of social unrest in America. Marshaling massive forces, civil rights leaders were primed for a wide-scale attack on injustice in the South. By summer the conflict rose to great intensity as blacks and whites clashed in Birmingham.
In Freedom Walk: Mississippi or Bust, Mary Stanton chronicles deeply influential events that occurred outside the massive drive. Before the tumultuous summer of 1963, Bill Moore, a white mail carrier, made his own assault on racial injustice. Jeered and assailed as he made a solitary civil rights march along the Deep South highways, he was ridiculed by racists as a "crazy man."
His well-publicized purpose was to walk from Chattanooga to Jackson and hand deliver a plea for racial tolerance to Ross Barnett, the staunchly segregationist governor of Mississippi. Moore had kept a journal that detailed his goal. Using it, along with interviews and extensive newspaper and newsreel reports, Mary Stanton has documented this phenomenal freedom walk as seen through his eyes.
On April 23, on a highway near Attalla, Alabama, this one crusader was shot dead. Floyd Simpson, a grocer and member of the Gadsden, Alabama, chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, was charged with Moore's murder.
A week later a white college student named Sam Shirah led five black and five white volunteers into Alabama to finish Moore's walk. They were beaten and jailed. Four other attempts to complete the postman's quest were similarly stymied.
Although Moore was not a nobly ideal figure handpicked by shapers of the movement, inadvertently he became one of its earliest martyrs and, until now, part of an overlooked chapter in the history of the civil rights movement.
Freedom Walk: Mississippi or Bust tells the complicated, interwoven stories of Moore, Shirah, and Simpson. Though all three shared a deep love of the South, their strong feelings about who was entitled to walk its highways were in deadly conflict.
Mary Stanton, an assistant public administrator of the town of Mamaroneck, New York, is the author of several books and articles about the civil rights movement.
|Publisher:||University Press of Mississippi|
|Product dimensions:||8.90(w) x 5.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Mary Stanton, an assistant public administrator of the town of Mamaroneck, N.Y., is the author of From Selma to Sorrow: The Life and Death of Viola Liuzzo. Her work has appeared in Southern Exposure, Gulf South Historical Review, and Government Executive.