This powerful collection of essays and short stories provides a unique perspective on the black civil rights movement over the past twenty-five years. A long-time activist, Michael Thelwell was a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee [SNCC] and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in the early 1960s, a founder of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts in 1970, author of the widely praised novel The Harder They Come published in 1980, and an organizer for Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign in 1984. Thelwell is a writer of rare grace, integrity, and strong political convictions.
The collection begins with three stories. Set in the Mississippi Delta in the 1960s, the stories explore how individuals manage to preserve their dignity in a world of racism and violence. The next six essays, also written in the 1960s, are historical and journalistic. They discuss the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the situation in the South as seen by SNCC workers, the political challenges in Mississippi, the articulation of the Black Power movement, the causes of the black student revolt at Cornell, and the need for Black Studies as the intellectual offensive in the struggle for black liberation.
The section that follows is composed of literary pieces: two appreciative essays on James Baldwin, two critical reviews of William Styron and his treatment of Nat Turner, an excoriating assessment of V. S. Naipaul, a profile of Amos Tutuola, and a thoughtful analysis of the social responsibility of the black writer.
The final essay examines the history of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign and comments on the political climate of the 1980s.