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I've got the light of freedom [electronic resource] : the organizing tradition and the mississippi freedom struggle. / Payne, Charles M.
Payne, Charles M.
[S.l.] : University of California Press, 2007.
578 p.
Vendor supplied record for iG Library received in 2016.
Other Authors:
Payne, Charles M., author

Online Access:


Material Type
Call Number
Electronic Book XX(1604162.1)

On Order



This momentous work offers a groundbreaking history of the early civil rights movement in the South with new material that situates the book in the context of subsequent movement literature.

Author Notes

Charles M. Payne is Professor of History, African American Studies, and Sociology at Duke University

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Not a comprehensive history of the civil rights movement in Mississippi, this thoughtful study instead analyzes the legacy of community organizing there. Payne, who teaches African American studies, sociology and urban affairs at Northwestern University, notes that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), though grounded in youthful energy, gained much from the ``congealed experience'' of older leaders, such as Ella Baker and Septima Clark. Concentrating on the delta city of Greenwood, he offers useful profiles of local activists, showing that many came from families with traditions of social involvement or defiance. He also explores the disproportionate number of female volunteers, the older black generation's complex interactions with whites and the decline of organizing as the 1960s proceeded. And he notes that, despite an ideology of unity, black activists lost the capacity to work together. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

With this history of the civil rights movement focusing on the Everyman turned hero, the commoner as crusader for justice, Payne challenges the old idea that history is the biography of great men. That definition of history has been nowhere more strongly posited than in the case of the American civil rights movement. According to legend, Martin Luther King and his band of righteous acolytes galvanized the masses of black people and ushered them into the American franchise. But Payne (African-American Studies/Northwestern) attacks the myth on both its linguistic premises--``great'' and ``men''--offering in cogent detail a narrative of civil rights that features the historically unfeatured, adding new heft and weight to an often-told tale. Payne takes as an operating motif a quote from Gandhi, ``There go my people. I must hurry and catch up to them for I am their leader.'' There are familiar faces here, to be sure--Medgar Evers, Ella Baker--but Payne concerns himself with those he believes to have been the real actors in the drama for American freedom, the men and women in the rural communities across the South who left their homes and plowshares to agitate for freedom--people like Amzie Moore, a founder in 1951 of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, which offered a collective voice to blacks in the Mississippi Delta. People like Septima Clark, who, fired from her teaching job for her NAACP membership, helped create Citizenship Schools to educate blacks. But Payne dares even further to reveal the profundity of mind present in the local leaders, arguing that the beliefs binding the people together was more than a sentimental, communitarian version of mother wit, but a conscientious philosophy of protest and activism, carefully conceived, arduously employed. In this thoughtful social history, Payne gives due regard to those activists great and small. (27 b&w photographs, map, not seen)

Library Journal Review

Payne (African American studies, Northwestern Univ.) presents an illuminating examination of the Civil Rights movement at the local level, in this case Greenwood, Mississippi, in the 1960s. As Payne deftly grafts Greenwood's struggle onto the larger movement, he challenges several widely accepted conclusions, such as overemphasizing a core cadre of male leaders while overlooking the important contributions of women and youth and the belief that the black church was an early leader in the movement. Much of Payne's information is culled from oral interviews with actual movement participants. The result is an important history of the Civil Rights movement at the grass-roots level that is reminiscent of Robert Norrell's Reaping the Whirlwind: The Civil Rights Movement in Tuskegee (Knopf, 1985). The excellent bibliographic essay is essential reading. Recommended for any library that collects Civil Rights materials.-Jonathan Jeffrey, Western Kentucky Univ., Bowling Green (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Payne's book advances significantly the historiography of the Civil Rights Movement. It is a deep probe into the innermost dynamics of the history of the movement in Mississippi, most especially in the town of Greenwood and the surrounding Delta. Payne has become intimately acquainted with many of the still-living participants and reveals how these local people, in concert with the youthful organizers of SNCC, brought about in the 1960s fundamental racial change in a state long believed impervious to such possibilities. Through his own eloquent prose and the verbatim testimony of the participants, Payne documents the courage, tenacity, and communal support necessary to overcome the equally tenacious resistance to change of the white majority. His analysis extends understanding of the origins of the movement in the '40s and '50s, the crucial nature of the gradual evolution of informal networks of supporters within the Mississippi African American community, the key role women played throughout the movement, and the insightful way in which the young SNCC leaders both led and followed those whom they served. This powerful book is required reading for anyone interested in race relations and the history of the 1960s. All levels. J. F. Findlay; University of Rhode Island

Table of Contents

Preface to the 2007 Editionp. XIII
Acknowledgmentsp. XXV
Introductionp. 1
1 Setting the Stagep. 7
2 Testing the Limits: Black Activism in Postwar Mississippip. 29
3 Give Light and the People Will Find a Way: The Roots of an Organizing Traditionp. 67
4 Moving on Mississippip. 103
5 Greenwood: Building on the Pastp. 132
6 If You Don't Go, Don't Hinder Me: The Redefinition of Leadershipp. 180
7 They Kept the Story Before Me: Families and Traditionsp. 207
8 Slow and Respecteul Work: Organizers and Organizingp. 236
9 A Woman's Warp. 265
10 Transitionsp. 284
11 Carrying On: The Politics of Empowermentp. 317
12 From SNCC to Slick: The Demoralization of the Movementp. 338
13 Mrs. Hamer is no Longer Relevant: The Loss of the Organizing Traditionp. 363
14 The Rough Draft of Historyp. 391
Epiloguep. 407
Bibliographic Essay: The Social Construction of Historyp. 413
Notesp. 443
Interviewsp. 489
Indexp. 493