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To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the…

To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement (New York…

by Charlayne Hunter-Gault

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Part history of the civil rights movement and part memoir, To the Mountaintop follows the personal story of Charlayne Hunter-Gault, an activist and journalist. She uses the inauguration of Barack Obama as an opportunity to look back on her own involvement in the civil rights movement. ( )
  skm88 | Jun 8, 2014 |
This book is really more a chronicle of the Civil Rights Movement from 1959-1965, bookended by reflections on the election of President Obama, than a memoir. Hunter-Gault was one of the first two black students to attend the University of Georgia but she disappointingly does not recount the experience in any great depth. As a history of the Civil Rights Movement, the book is interesting for Hunter-Gault's personal reflections on some pivotal events but they are not terribly insightful. There are much better histories of the movement available for young people. Also disappointing is the absence of any recommendations for further reading on the subject. Hunter-Gault had an opportunity to offer readers a unique perspective on the Civil Rights Movement as a participant but unfortunately missed it. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
Richie's Picks: TO THE MOUNTAINTOP: MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT by Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Roaring Brook/NY Times, January 2012, 208p., ISBN: 978-1-5964-3605-3

"There's been times that I thought
I wouldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come
Oh yes it will"
-- Sam Cooke (1963)

"The white girls on the second floor had also been told to turn off their lights so my room would be the only one with lights and therefore easy to locate. I was sitting at the vanity when suddenly I heard a crash. I turned to look, and the first thing I saw was glass spattered all over the clothes in my open suitcase. Then I saw a brick lying on top of the glass, My first thought was: So this is what it's like in the middle of a riot."

Such was Charlayne Hunter-Gault's welcome to the University of Georgia in January 1961, when -- after a two-year legal battle -- she and a fellow high school classmate became the University's first two students of color.

"Within a short while the dean arrived and told me that Hamp and I were being suspended for our own safety. It was a ruse that had been successful in an earlier integration effort in Alabama, when its first black student, Autherine Lucy, was suspended, never to return.
"By the time the dean got to my room, the police had also arrived and begun dispersing the crowd with tear gas. But they had taken their time getting there. All the other students had been told to remove their sheets since tear gas might linger there and cause their eyes to tear. As I walked through the lobby, I passed by a semicircle of the white girls from upstairs [She was being housed away from everyone else.], and one threw a quarter in my direction. 'Here's a quarter, Charlayne,' she called. 'Go upstairs and change my sheets.'"

I was amazed to learn that Hunter-Gault, who I came to know on television thirty-something years ago when she joined the MacNeil/Leher Report, had once been a significant figure in the Civil Rights Movement.

Hunter-Gault packs quite a punch here, both in recalling her own firsthand experiences as a participant in the fight to end segregation in America and, also, in recounting so many other facets of the Movement's work. Like the PBS reporting I'd known her for, her writing here is based upon impeccable research, is exceptionally well-structured, is understated in its emotion and rhetoric, but is utterly overflowing with horrific details-- so many tales I'd never known about surrounding some of the best-known actions of the Movement. Reading these powerful, plain-spoken historical truths about a time I well remember -- having been a young child traumatized by again and again watching the brutality inflicted upon those in the Movement being broadcast on the nightly news -- repeatedly brought me to tears.

"'If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
"'It's been a long time coming.'"
-- Barack Obama, election night victory speech (2008)

Prefacing the book with her recollections of attending the historic inauguration of President Obama, who owes his election to those who came before, Ms. Hunter-Gault structures this two-fold story with chapters titled by year, beginning with 1959, the year she graduated from Henry McNeal Turner High School in Atlanta, and concluding with 1965, the year when, with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in attendance, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed Congress before proceeding to sign the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. Each of these seven chapters are preceded by a photo spread of a New York Times front page containing articles about different Civil Rights Movement landmark events.

But the events, stories, and characters we read about here, extend both forward and backward in time, far beyond the seven years that make up these chapter headings. There is an abundance of context provided for thoroughly understanding what took place during these seven years and why.

The book concludes with extensive back matter. Included are the complete texts of the aforementioned New York Times articles and a detailed timeline that extends for eight pages.

To bring about positive change in this country, Ms. Hunter-Gault and countless others put their lives on the line in the nineteen-sixties -- and sometimes paid with their lives to make that change happen. This is their not-to-be-missed story.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/
http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/faculty/partingtonr/partingtonr.php ( )
  richiespicks | Jan 26, 2012 |
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Starting with the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009 and working back to the early 1960s, Hunter-Gault covers many of the significant moments in the civil rights movement, including her own pivotal role in desegregating the University of Georgia

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