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We Shall Not Be Moved

The Jackson Woolworth's Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired

M. J. O'Brien

Publication Year: 2013

Once in a great while, a photograph captures the essence of an era: Three people--one black and two white--demonstrate for equality at a lunch counter while a horde of cigarette-smoking hotshots pour catsup, sugar, and other condiments on the protesters' heads and down their backs. The image strikes a chord for all who lived through those turbulent times of a changing America.

The photograph, which plays a central role in the book's perspectives from frontline participants, caught a moment when the raw virulence of racism crashed against the defiance of visionaries. It now shows up regularly in books, magazines, videos, and museums that endeavor to explain America's largely nonviolent civil rights battles of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Yet for all of the photograph's celebrated qualities, the people in it and the events they inspired have only been sketched in civil rights histories. It is not well known, for instance, that it was this event that sparked to life the civil rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1963. Sadly, this same sit-in and the protest events it inspired led to the assassination of Medgar Evers, who was leading the charge in Jackson for the NAACP.

We Shall Not Be Moved puts the Jackson Woolworth's sit-in into historical context. Part multifaceted biography, part well-researched history, this gripping narrative explores the hearts and minds of those participating in this harrowing sit-in experience. It was a demonstration without precedent in Mississippi--one that set the stage for much that would follow in the changing dynamics of the state's racial politics, particularly in its capital city.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Cover

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pp. 1-9

CONTENTS

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pp. ix-x

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FOREWORD

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pp. xi-xii

MICHAEL O'BRIEN HAS WRITTEN A DETAILED HISTORY AND FASCINATING study of one of the iconic moments of the modern civil rights movement and the powerful effect it had. The 1963 sit-in at a Jackson, Mississippi, Woolworth’s lunch counter was captured by a local photographer, as were many other demonstrations, but this one captured the imagination as no other did. ...

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PROLOGUE

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pp. 3-4

Start with the photograph, a striking image in black and white. The background features a phalanx of jeering young white men seemingly engaged in the kind of sophomoric prank every high school yearbook boasts. Their hairstyles date them somewhere post-Elvis but pre-Beatles: slicked-back, James Dean types, raising a little hell down at the after-school hangout. Their faces show glee, fascination, bemusement as ...

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CHAPTER 1 Medgar’s Mississippi

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pp. 5-28

Medgar Evers was not on the scene when violence erupted at the downtown Jackson Woolworth’s. Instead, he was dutifully ensconced in his office, awaiting word of how the demonstration was going. He hoped, though, that this first direct action strike would force a breakthrough that would not only bring the whites in power to the bargaining table, but also shatter the seeming indifference of the local black community ...

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CHAPTER 2 Some People in the Photograph

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pp. 29-51

THE SIT-IN PHOTOGRAPH IS SO STRIKING PRECISELY BECAUSE OF THE INTENSE human drama being played out within its frame. Who are these people? Why are some sitting idle at the counter while others, in a frenzy, find ways of tormenting them? Who are the others spying intently from behind? Before delving ...

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CHAPTER 3 Others at the Counter

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pp. 52-69

A PHOTOGRAPH -- ANY PHOTOGRAPH -- IS INCOMPLETE. THE CAMERA ONLY captures whatever image is right in front of it. Other dramas may be unfolding all around, but if they are not within the optical span of the camera’s lens, they are not recorded. In the case of the famous Jackson sit-in photograph, there were many other scenes that could have been documented—some of them ...

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CHAPTER 4 Others on the Scene

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pp. 70-80

BESIDES THE DEMONSTRATORS, THERE WERE SCORES OF OTHERS OUTSIDE OF the focal plane of the camera that shot the famous photograph of the Jackson sit-in. Some of these individuals played pivotal roles, either in what happened that day or in publicizing the event to the broader world. Their stories add to the pastiche of images assembled to tell the story of the Jackson Movement. ...

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CHAPTER 5 North Jackson Action

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pp. 81-118

THE JACKSON MOVEMENT CAME INTO BEING THROUGH THE INFLUENCE OF varied forces and personalities that by synchronistic convergence found themselves pushing in the same direction for social change. There was Medgar Evers, the NAACP man who had been on the ground in Mississippi for the better part of ten years and who, like Sisyphus, had been working for change ...

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CHAPTER 6 “The Beginning of Change in Mississippi”

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pp. 119-151

PEARLENA LEWIS DIDN'T SLEEP VERY WELL THE NIGHT BEOFRE THE SIT-IN.1 Her feelings were a jumble: somewhat anxious though also excited, Lewis felt honored that, despite her youth, Medgar Evers had chosen her for a key role in the demonstration. She awoke early and gave her family no warning of what she was about to do; she had told Evers she felt “of age to make [this] decision ...

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CHAPTER 7 More Demonstrations, Less Unity

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pp. 152-179

IN THE WEEK AFTER THE SIT-IN, THE GRASSROOTS PHASE OF THE JACKSON Movement sparked to life, a direct response in large part to what had happened at Woolworth’s. The impact of the sit-in began to be realized the next day, when every major newspaper in America carried front-page coverage, many with pictures of Memphis Norman being attacked by Bennie Oliver. ...

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CHAPTER 8 The Death of Medgar Evers

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pp. 180-204

IT IS DIFFICULT NOW TO COMP REHEND JUST HOW HARSH AND BRUTAL MISSISSIPPI'S racial war had become in the early 1960s. State-sponsored terrorism, as some have called it, was a way of life, and no one felt the jagged edge of that terror more acutely than did Medgar Evers and his family. Evers would get regular threats by phone at his office. “It just became a routine thing,” remembered ...

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CHAPTER 9 “The Lord’s Spontaneous Demonstration”

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pp. 205-230

ON THURSDAY, JUNE 13 -- THE DAY AFTER MEDGAR EVERS WAS ASSASSINATED--the remaining Jackson activists got back to work in earnest. John Salter, Dave Dennis, and Ed King ran a two-hour training session on nonviolence that morning at the Pearl Street AME Church in anticipation of a march they were planning for later in the day. Annie Moody and Dorie Ladner visited Jackson ...

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CHAPTER 10 Next Steps

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pp. 231-248

ALTHOUGH THE DIRECT ACTION PHASE OF THE JACKSON MOVEMENT ENDED with the Evers funeral march and the resulting negotiated settlement, much was left to be done during what might be called the movement’s implementation phase. Charles Evers and the activist black ministers led the charge to hold the city accountable for its promises while also pushing for additional concessions. ...

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CHAPTER 11 Veterans of Domestic Wars

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pp. 249-281

MEDGAR EVERS IS BURIED ON THE EDGE OF A SMALL OAK GROVE, JUST INSIDE the north gate of Arlington Cemetery, the one directly opposite the Lincoln Memorial. The solitary grave site is easy to find. Visitors entering the north gate need go only about a hundred paces up a slight hill, past a tall ivy-covered arbor on the right, to a flight of concrete stairs. There, down about two dozen ...

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EPILOGUE

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pp. 282-286

WHEN HE TOOK THE PHOTOGRAPH THAT WOULD PROPEL HIM INTO THE HISTORY books, Fred Blackwell was just twenty-two years old, the same age as some of the demonstrators at the counter, but he had already worked for the Jackson Daily News for more than a year. The newspaper’s editor, Jimmy Ward, had offered young Blackwell a job when at age fourteen he was named “Paper Boy ...

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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pp. 287-290

YOU MIGHT SAY THAT THIS BOOK BEGAN DURING THE SUMMER OF 1977 WHEN I first encountered Joan Mulholland’s five boys careening across an open field, kicking up dust as they made their way from their house to the neighborhood playground two blocks away. I happened to be working as a playground counselor and was struck by this force of nature heading my way. ...

NOTES

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pp. 291-328

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 329-334

INDEX

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pp. 335-340


E-ISBN-13: 9781621039297
E-ISBN-10: 1621039293
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617037436

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2013

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Subject Headings

  • Civil rights movements -- Mississippi -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Mississippi -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Segregation -- Mississippi -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mississippi -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
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