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Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear Hardcover – February 4, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0374192204 ISBN-10: 0374192200 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (February 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374192200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374192204
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #578,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Though he was viewed as a civil rights champion for his 1962 campaign to integrate Ole Miss, when James Meredith undertook his long walk across Mississippi to encourage voter registration by black citizens in 1966, he was not regarded as a civil rights leader. His loner status kept him out of the inner circle of recognized leaders, yet when he was nearly assassinated one day into the walk, luminaries from Martin Luther King Jr. to Stokely Carmichael stepped in to take up the march, ultimately making it a turning point in the civil rights movement. Goudsouzian examines the tensions that were brewing between King, Carmichael, and others as the movement sorted itself into different philosophical camps—primarily integrationists versus separatists—with corresponding debates about the most effective strategies, setting the stage for the next phase of the era and the rise of the black power movement. He highlights the contentious debates among movement leaders, the courage they inspired among rural demonstrators, and the fierce resistance they faced from segregationists. --Vanessa Bush


"An estimably well-researched and pitch-perfect work of history . . . Goudsouzian’s well-written book is a model of authoritative and jargon-free scholarship."
The Washington Post

"Down to the Crossroads provides a nuanced and engaging look at what was one of the last major marches of the civil-rights movement."
Wall Street Journal

“Aram Goudsouzian has written the single best book on a critical period of the civil rights struggle. He helps us to understand fully what really happened to the movement and in America after passage of the historic 1964-65 civil rights laws. With a scholar’s meticulous research, an investigative reporter’s comprehensive interviewing, and a novelist’s lyrical prose, Goudsouzian brings alive an important chapter in American history.”
—Nick Kotz, author of Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws That Changed America

"Down to the Crossroads stands every chance of being career-defining. It is meticulously researched, and it is thoroughly readable. It is also a story that remained relatively under-reported — until now."
—Leonard Gill, Memphis Flyer

“In Down to the Crossroads, Aram Goudsouzian re-creates the last great march of the civil rights movement in vibrant and intimate detail. Through compelling prose and exciting storytelling, Goudsouzian introduces contemporary readers to the central characters of a great American drama: a historic political movement in transition, precisely at the end of the era of nonviolent civil disobedience and the beginning of the revolutionary politics of Black Power, militancy, and armed resistance. This book is a must-read for anyone curious about the sixties and about the roots of the political movement that elected Barack Obama president.”
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University

“The Meredith March remains one of the most under-studied yet significant events of the civil rights era. In Aram Goudsouzian, the march has found its definitive chronicler. Fresh, powerful, and brimming with new historical insights, Down to the Crossroads is a truly impressive account of a march that forever transformed American race relations.”
—Peniel E. Joseph, professor of history at Tufts University and author of Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America and Stokely: A Life

Down to the Crossroads is a splendid addition to the literature of the southern struggle to overcome the Jim Crow system. It offers a vivid account of the tumultuous events that brought together the key civil rights leaders of the 1960s, and it deepens our understanding of their contrasting answers to Martin Luther King’s enduring question: Where do we go from here?”
—Clayborne Carson, founding director of Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute and author of Martin’s Dream: My Journey and the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

More About the Author

Aram Goudsouzian is Chair of the Department of History at the University of Memphis. He grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts. He earned his B.A. from Colby College and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He is the author of "Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear," "King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution," "The Hurricane of 1938," and "Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon."

Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul T. Murray on February 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Meredith March in 1966 is usually remembered as the birthplace of the Black Power slogan. Down to the Crossroads by Aram Goudsouzian reveals that this march was much more than that. Begun as a solo hike from Memphis to Jackson by James Meredith, the first African American to attend Ole Miss, it became a national event when he was shot from ambush. Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, the new chairman of SNCC, and Floyd McKissick, the head of CORE, took up Meredith’s cause.
Compared with the unparalleled success of the Selma to Montgomery march just sixteen months earlier, the Meredith march was a disappointment. Moderate leaders hoped the march would build support for the Civil Rights bill then before Congress. Radical spokesmen, most notably Carmichael, wanted to turn the Civil Rights Movement towards Black Nationalism and away from nonviolence. Reporters covering the march focused on disagreements among the leaders and anti-white implications of the new slogan. Largely overlooked was the march’s announced goal of promoting black voter registration.
Goudsouzian has done extensive research on the events and personalities involved in the Meredith march. He has interviewed a wide variety of participants and observers. He scrupulously avoids taking sides among the various factions and points out benefits of the march as well its less positive consequences.
Students of the Civil Rights Movement will learn much they previously did not know from reading Down to the Crossroads.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Doggett on April 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Just finished reading the copy the author sent me. The title takes a famous phrase from blues pioneer Robert Johnson to refer to the ideological crossroads where the non-violence and integration of the “beloved community” of the early ‘60s Civil Rights Movement splintered with the poorly understood messages of Black Power and separatism. This book strikes a reasonably good balance between detailed documentation of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the national leaders who converged on the 1966 March overnight after the loner Meredith was shot, and the day-to-day trudging of the foot soldiers like myself, interspersed with the terror and anger of violent clashes in Philadelphia and Canton. This was not only “the last of the great civil rights marches,” but also the last time the leadership of every civil rights organization from the Urban League to SNCC struggled face-to-face over strategy and philosophy for days on end. It’s all there - the egos of the national leaders, the pragmatism of the local leaders, the heroism of the local people, the viciousness of Mississippi law enforcement, officials and the white public, and the callous neglect of the Federal Government. This is a dramatic read for those of us who were there, and those who weren’t; and it breaks ones heart to understand what we went through to start registering voters after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and what is happening now with the Supreme Court decisions and rash of voter suppression laws.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sandy M; Focus Reviews on March 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I made a point last month to read three books that would focus on civil rights, and this one was really eye-opening! For an event as important as the Meredith March of 1962, I was clueless. It was never mentioned in my history classes and I am not old enough to have lived through it. So, what Aram Goudsouzian has given me is a real gift. His writing is clear and balanced, with all angles, no bias.

For those intersted, this was my academic book choice, and I encourage it to all others looks to learn more about the civil rights movement. You will learn how the Meredith March was a real turning point in history from the King to Black Power era.

My lighter human interested book choice is the first memoir of Jackie Robinson: My Own Story. And for a literature fix I went with WEB DuBois "The Souls of Black Folk" - can't go wrong there.
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