In Peace and Freedom
My Journey in Selma
Publication Year: 2013
Bernard LaFayette Jr. (b. 1940) was a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, a Freedom Rider, an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the national coordinator of the Poor People's Campaign. At the young age of twenty-two, he assumed the directorship of the Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma -- a city that had previously been removed from the organization's list due to the dangers of operating there.
In this electrifying memoir, written with Kathryn Lee Johnson, LaFayette shares the inspiring story of his years in Selma. When he arrived in 1963, Selma was a small, quiet, rural town. By 1965, it had made its mark in history and was nationally recognized as a battleground in the fight for racial equality and the site of one of the most important victories for social change in our nation.
LaFayette was one of the primary organizers of the 1965 Selma voting rights movement and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and he relates his experiences of these historic initiatives in close detail. Today, as the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is still questioned, citizens, students, and scholars alike will want to look to this book as a guide. Important, compelling, and powerful, In Peace and Freedom presents a necessary perspective on the civil rights movement in the 1960s from one of its greatest leaders.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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Title Page, Copyright , Dedication
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In this book, Bernard LaFayette Jr. has written a powerful history of struggle, commitment, and hope. No one, but no one, who lived through the creation and development of the movement for voting rights in Selma is better prepared to tell this story than Bernard LaFayette himself. ...
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Ever since I was a teenager I have had an interest in civil rights. I participated in the Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Tampa, Florida, at an early age. In Tampa the president of the NAACP was Rev. Leon Lowry and the field secretary was Mr. Robert Sanders. ...
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Prologue--The Road into Selma, Fall 1962
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Traveling to Selma to visit the town where I would spend the next couple of years, I drove west on Highway 80, winding my way through the peaceful hills of Lowndes County, Alabama. The noon sun of this November day shone across vast stretches of farmland, dotted with giant rolls of hay, freshly harvested. ...
1. Preparing for Selma
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Selma, Alabama. What was it about this little southern town that sparked the question from so many people, “Why go to Selma? You can’t bring about any change there.” I wondered about this sentiment as I made plans to spend the next couple of years there as director of the Alabama Voter Registration Campaign ...
2. Shackles of Fear, Handcuffs of Hopelessness
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It was a cold January morning in 1963 when I first drove into Selma to start the project, and in less than fifteen minutes a police car was following my automobile, and I was driving only in the black community. I concluded there had to be someone in the neighborhood who tipped off the police that a stranger was in town. ...
3. Preparing to Register to Vote
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The voter registration office at the Dallas County Courthouse was open only two days a month, the first and third Thursdays, so this limited the opportunities to attempt to register. When I heard about this ridiculous twice-a-month schedule, I thought, “Well, we’re going to change that!” ...
4. Central Alabama Heats Up
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Benny Tucker, a student at Selma University, became actively involved in the Selma campaign. I often let him use my car, fondly called the “movement car.” He was out running office errands one day and had a wreck. He ran smack into the back of a car at a traffic light, unquestionably his fault. ...
5. Mountains and Valleys
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During this period in our history of the struggle, overlapping with my time in Selma, there were other movements in effect throughout the country. There was a hopeful atmosphere, a cloud of despair had been pierced, and movement was in the air. Popular artists wrote or performed songs that embraced the themes of the movement, ...
6. The March from Selma to Montgomery
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The Voter Registration Campaign in Selma started about the same time as the movement in Marion, Perry County, Alabama. Albert Turner, the SCLC leader, and Dorothy Cotton and James Orange, SCLC staff, were working in Perry County and central Alabama. James was arrested for his work on voting rights, ...
7. Reflections on the Alabama Voter Registration Campaign
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The most significant outcome of the Alabama Voter Registration Campaign was the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, which banned racial discrimination and secured equal voting rights for black citizens. This resulted in a dramatic increase in voter registration for African Americans. ...
Epilogue--The Road Out of Selma, March 1965
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As I drove out of Selma in 1965, along Highway 80, I pondered what an important stretch of road this was that had led not only to Montgomery but to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I recalled the thousands of hopeful marchers moving along this pavement step by step toward justice. ...
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Bernard LaFayette Jr.’s riveting account of his experiences in Selma reminds us that the realization of America’s democratic ideals has rarely involved an easy or uncontested march to victory. During the 1960s, civil rights activists in the Deep South faced powerful adversaries determined to defend the traditions and shibboleths of racial privilege and prejudice by any and all means. ...
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I wish to express deep appreciation for those of you who played a role in making this book a quality documentary that will contribute to the rich history of the civil rights movement and nonviolent struggle that occurred in Selma, Alabama. To the courageous people of Selma, this book was inspired by you and is for you. ...
Appendix A: Example of a Literacy Test for Registering to Vote
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Appendix B: Excerpt from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Special Message to the Congress: “The American Promise”
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Appendix C: Dr. King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence Related to Selma
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Appendix D: Life Dates of Some Persons Referenced in the Book
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Other Works in the Series
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Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century