In the United States, the month of February is dedicated to showcasing the achievements and centuries long plight of African-Americans. Stories and images from the slave trade, emancipation, Jim Crow era and Civil Rights Movement flash across television screens, social media and the Internet. My parents can still vividly recall their memories of the movement and the mistreatment of minorities of all backgrounds before the passing of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 by then President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Following the passage of the bill, many more years would pass before American society began to make bigger strides in social equality. And even today in 2016, there is still much work to be done. The faces may have changed, but the actions and unfortunate consequences that come with discrimination are still an issue which America finds itself being confronted with regularly. It’s nearly impossible for the generation of today to even imagine what life was like during Jim Crow. To most it seems like an ancient period in American history. But let us not forget that this era was less than 100 years ago and many of those alive today from that era still carry mental and physical scars that may never heal.
William Henry Chafe, Raymond Gavis and Robert Korstad have compiled this incredible book which features a collection of memories from people who lived in the south during Jim Crow and what they remembering growing up among a violent and fiercely oppressive climate of racial discrimination. In most elementary schools, children are taught about the slave trade, emancipation and the civil rights movement, but books such as these are typically nowhere to be found. I firmly believe that every American should read this book. It is often brutal at times, but it serves as reminder of a not too distant past that continues to rear its ugly head today. One of things that make the past so valuable is that we can continue to use it as a tool by which to learn. America has come a long way, and as Robert F. Kennedy accurately predicted more than 50 years ago, we did have our first president with African-American ancestry. This nation still has a long way to go, but the commitment to change and improvement is what makes this country the great nation that it is.