This remarkable collection of oral histories traces three decades of turbulent race relations and social change in the United States. One evening in 1955, Howard Spence, a Mississippi field representative for the NAACP investigating the Emmett Till murder, was confronted by Klansmen who burned an eight-foot cross on his front lawn. "I felt my life wasn't worth a penny with a hole in it." Twenty-four years later, Spence had become a respected pillar of that same Mississippi town, serving as its first Black alderman.
The story of Howard Spence is just one of the remarkable personal dramas recounted in Black Lives, White Lives. Beginning in 1968, Bob Blauner and a team of interviewers recorded the words of those caught up in the crucible of rapid racial, social, and political change. Unlike most retrospective oral histories, these interviews capture the intense racial tension of 1968 in real time, as people talk with unusual candor about their deepest fears and prejudices. The diverse experiences and changing beliefs of Blauner's interview subjects—sixteen of them Black, twelve of them white—are expanded through subsequent interviews in 1979 and 1986, revealing as much about ordinary, daily lives as the extraordinary cultural shifts that shaped them. This book remains a landmark historical and sociological document, and an exceptional primary-source commentary on the development of race relations since the 1960s. Republished with a foreword by Professor Gerald Early, Black Lives, White Lives offers new generations of scholars and activists a galvanizing meditation on how divided America was then and still is today.
Black Lives, White Lives Three Decades of Race Relations in America
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