Thursday, January 18, 2018
Books

Memoir offers new insight on 1960s civil rights struggle

Tampa native Bernard LaFayette Jr.'s involvement with the civil rights movement began early. As a teen in Tampa, he was on the Youth Council of the NAACP. While he was in college at American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, his roommate, John Lewis (now a U.S. representative from Atlanta) brought him to nonviolence workshops taught by the Rev. James Lawson, which galvanized LaFayette's dedication to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That led him to participate in sit-ins in Nashville and become a Freedom Rider in 1961.

But the experience that changed both his life and the course of history was his leadership of the Alabama Voter Registration Campaign in Selma, Ala., from 1962 to 1965. LaFayette's new memoir, In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma, offers an eye-opening look inside that pivotal era in American history.

LaFayette was active in the leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1962 when he requested a job no one else wanted: "Two groups of SNCC workers just returned from scouting the city and reported, 'The white folks are too mean and the black folks are too afraid.' Despite the fact that the town was centrally located in Alabama, SNCC marked a bold black X across Selma on the wall map of the state."

But LaFayette, with the confidence of a 22-year-old, took on the directorship, setting out to enfranchise black voters in a county where only 156 of 15,000 blacks of voting age were registered. The book recounts his careful preparation for the task, including library hours studying Selma's history and even "a periodical of the White Citizen's Council, a white supremacy group. It was filled with helpful information in learning how this group thought."

But nothing could entirely prepare him for what he would encounter. Civil rights activists and black citizens seeking voting rights would be beaten, bombed and killed; on March 7, 1965, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, 600 marchers would be attacked by police with tear gas and billy clubs. That event, known as Bloody Sunday, and the subsequent historic marches from Selma to Montgomery would lead directly to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

LaFayette tells that story with authority and personal knowledge. Now the distinguished senior scholar in residence at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta and chairman of the national board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, LaFayette has earned the right to look back on his part in history. But, as Lewis points out in his foreword to the book, voting rights are still under threat, and the fight is not yet done.

Comments
‘Fire and Fury’ burns up bestseller lists

‘Fire and Fury’ burns up bestseller lists

When author Michael Wolff was interviewed on the Today show about his book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Savannah Guthrie asked him how he felt about President Donald Trump’s attacks on it. Wolff responded, "Where do I send the box of ...
Published: 01/17/18

Events: Writers in Paradise features Banks, Lippman, more

Book TalkThe Writers in Paradise evening readings continue this week. All readings will take place in the Miller Auditorium at Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Books will be available for purchase on site. All readings are free and o...
Published: 01/11/18
Notable: Books on Trump, one year in

Notable: Books on Trump, one year in

NotableOne year inWith the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration approaching, here are new books about him. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt) by Michael Wolff is the incendiary look at the administration that provoke...
Published: 01/11/18
Andre Dubus III reads to ‘sink more deeply’ into the human condition

Andre Dubus III reads to ‘sink more deeply’ into the human condition

NightstandAndre Dubus IIIEckerd College’s Writers in Paradise conference takes place this week, and one of the returning faculty members is Andre Dubus III. Dubus is the author of six books, including Bluesman, Townie and two novels turned films, The...
Published: 01/11/18
Steph Post’s Florida noir ‘Walk in the Fire’ a sizzling sequel to ‘Lightwood’

Steph Post’s Florida noir ‘Walk in the Fire’ a sizzling sequel to ‘Lightwood’

In Steph Post’s new novel, Walk in the Fire, there’s a young aspiring criminal with a gift for astute observation. Asked to describe the tiny Central Florida town of Silas, where much of the book takes place, he says, "You drive through and it’s like...
Published: 01/11/18
Former Times columnist Klinkenberg named Florida Folk Heritage Award winner

Former Times columnist Klinkenberg named Florida Folk Heritage Award winner

Raise a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and toast former Tampa Bay Times columnist Jeff Klinkenberg. This week, he was announced as one of three 2018 winners of the Florida Folk Heritage Awards.The awards honor outstanding folk artists and folk ...
Published: 01/10/18
Harry Belafonte, who will visit USF, reflects on friendship with Martin Luther King Jr.

Harry Belafonte, who will visit USF, reflects on friendship with Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1964, when they were both 37, Harry Belafonte and his friend Sidney Poitier traveled to the town of Greenwood, Miss. As the two entertainers made their journey to meet with members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, they were chased...
Published: 01/09/18
New book from Tampa tax attorney tops bestseller lists

New book from Tampa tax attorney tops bestseller lists

Tampa tax attorney and certified financial planner Rebecca Walser hit the timing sweet spot with the Jan. 3 publication of her book, Wealth Unbroken: Growing Wealth Uninterrupted by Market Crashes, Taxes, or Even Death (Atlantic, $22.95 paperback, $4...
Published: 01/08/18
Two dying memoirists wrote best-sellers about their final days. Then their spouses fell in love

Two dying memoirists wrote best-sellers about their final days. Then their spouses fell in love

SAN MATEO, Calif. — The literary pairing was inevitable."When Breath Becomes Air," Paul Kalanithi’s memoir of his final years as he faced lung cancer at age 37, was published posthumously, in 2016, to critical acclaim and commercial success. "The Bri...
Published: 01/04/18
Review: Lippman’s ‘Sunburn’ a sizzling salute to James Cain

Review: Lippman’s ‘Sunburn’ a sizzling salute to James Cain

It doesn’t get much more noir than James M. Cain. Or at least it didn’t until Laura Lippman’s Sunburn came along. Back in the 1930s, Cain wrote a couple of novels that pretty much established — and perfected — the noir ...
Published: 01/04/18