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Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era Books

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

This book by African-American author James Baldwin contains two essays including "My Dungeon Shook," a letter to his fourteen-year-old nephew reflecting on race in American history, and "Down At The Cross," a discussion of the relationship between race and the Christian Church. Published in 1963, the book reads as both a plea and a warning to America regarding the state of race relations at the time.

Alex Haley, ed., The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1964)

Alex Haley conducted several interviews with black leader Malcolm X before his death in 1965. From these, he wrote this powerful autobiography, which details the upbringing, transformations, and philosophy of the father of the black power movement. Haley has been criticized by Malcolm X's family and members of the Nation of Islam for censoring or, possibly, twisting some facts. These accusations make the text all the more interesting to read!

Howell Raines, My Soul is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered (1977)

Raines presents the personal reflections of both the leaders of the movement and the ordinary people—both black and white—who showed great courage and risked so much in the name of civil rights.

Greil Marcus, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'N' Roll Music (1975)

Marcus explores the music of several rock, funk, and blues artists including Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, and Sly and the Family Stone. The chapter on African-American funk star Sly Stone is particularly relevant to the history of this period of the Civil Rights Movement. Marcus ties Stone's music to the rhetoric, style, attitude, and fate of the Black Panther Party, all within the context of these tumultuous years of the late '60s and early '70s. In doing this he attempts to explain who Stone, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver wanted to be, and who these mysterious men ultimately became.

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