If you knew nothing about the civil rights movement, about the prejudice against black Americans, from the 1830’s (the book starts around the 1830’s, but slavery goes all the way back to 1619) to the 1970’s you might think that many stories in this books were made up by a demonic, unstable, writer but sadly that is not true and the demonic forces, at this very moment in time, seem to be making an astonishing comeback thanks to the Republican Party and men like Trump, and Governor Abbot in Texas.
Lynne Olson, author of “Freedom’s Daughters,” is an amazing historian, a wonderful writer, but what I like most about her is that she brings to the forefront the unsung heroes in her books, whether it be a little known US ambassador to Britain that stressed over and over again to President Roosevelt the need to help Great Britain before we got involved in the War, or the brilliant Polish Pilots who without their help the British would have most likely been conquered by the Nazis.
In “Freedom’s Daughters,” Ms. Olson shines a bright and blinding light on the women of the civil rights movement of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s who by every measure were the back bone behind the movement and whose courage was nothing short of heroic in the the face of lynching, rape, and the bombing of their homes (just to mention a few things). Many were the recruiters who went out and got other blacks involved through out the southern states and Northern Universities, the organizers behind the boycotts, the integration of the schools, the right to vote, fund raising, and who put pressure on Washington D.C. to do something about the ‘rights’ they were guaranteed and were denied by the white supremacist Senators, Governors, mayors, school boards, and police in the southern states. A few of the names of these tenacious leaders are: Diane Nash, Ella Baker, Septima Clark, Eleanor Roosevelt (who did much more than her husband to desegregate the army, the schools, and fighting for equal rights for all men and all women, black, or white) Dorothy Zellner, Donna Richards, Virginia Durr, and Rosa Parks who was famous for not giving up her seat on the bus but who had been active in the civil rights movement ten years previous and many years after.
This is the most important book I have read this year, and what I have written about is a tiny sample of the scope of this book and the civil rights movement, which, in turn, paved the path for the women’s movement, the gay movement, etc.
In closing, I just want to share a story. I cannot count the amount of people who have complained to me about how sick and tired they are of blacks and women in general always complaining, and they always seem to add and, “My God, they’ve already had a black president.”
And my replied is always the same, “Well, they have only been here for 400 years. I wouldn’t consider one in 400 very good odds. Whereas, it only took Catholics, who did not come in great numbers until the late 1890’s, only 70 years to elect a President. And as for women they have been here since Plymouth Rock, and outnumber males and yet not one has become President.”