In 1951, Carl Rowan, a young African American journalist from Minneapolis, journeyed six thousand miles through the South to report on the reality of everyday life for blacks in the region. He sought out the hot spots of racial tension-including Columbia, Tennessee, the scene of a 1946 race riot, and Birmingham, Alabama, which he found to be a brutally racist city-and returned to the setting of his more personal trials: McMinnville, Tennessee, his boyhood home. In this "balance sheet of American race relations," Rowan plots the racial mood of the South and describes simply but vividly the discrimination he encountered daily at hotels, restaurants, and railroad stations, on trains and on buses.
Originally published in 1952 and long out of print, South of Freedom is a first-rate account of what it was like to live as a second-class citizen, to experience the segregation, humiliation, danger, stereotypes, economic exploitation, and taboos that were all part of life for African Americans in the 1940s and 1950s. For this edition, Douglas Brinkley provides a new introduction, incorporating recent interviews with Rowan to place the work in the context of its time.
An engaging, disturbing look at the opinions of the time on the "Negro problem," Rowan's tales of travel in the South under Jim Crow are especially valuable today as a means of seeing how far we have advanced-and fallen short-in forty-five years.
"A factual, personal, excellently written and very moving story….Rowan covers the South, finding all degrees of prejudice from humiliating annoyances, through segregation in its various forms and degrees, all the way to outright manifestation of hatred and fear."—San Francisco Chronicle
Douglas Brinkley is director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies and professor of history at the University of New Orleans. He is the author of several books, including Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years and Jimmy Carter: Citizen for Peace.y Legacy.
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