From Jim Crow to the March on Washington: Alumni authors look back on the beginnings of a movement

Eric EtheridgeCharles Euchner and Alex Heard – three Vanderbilt University alumni who have written important books about the early years of the Civil Rights Movement – returned to their alma mater for a discussion and book signing on April 21.

Watch video of “From Jim Crow to the March on Washington: Alumni Authors Look Back on the Beginnings of a Movement,” moderated byJohn Seigenthaler, founder of The First Amendment Center and host of WNPT’s A Word on Words.

Heard wrote The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex and Secrets in the Jim Crow South (HarperCollins,2010), the story of a young African American man from Laurel, Miss., who was executed in 1951 for allegedly raping a white housewife. The Washington Post named it a Best Book of 2010.

Charles Euchner’s latest book is Nobody Turn Me Around: A People’s History of the 1963 March on Washington (Beacon Press, 2010). He addresses the significance of the August 28 March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in the context of the overall Civil Rights Movement. The author conducted oral history interviews with more than 100 march participants – ranging from high-profile Civil Rights leaders to average Americans who endured abuse while standing up for what they believed.

Etheridge is the author and photographer of Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders (Atlas, 2008). The book features 40-year-old mugshots of more than 300 arrested riders in Jackson, Miss., as well as new portraits and excerpts of interviews with 80 of those riders whom Etheridge has tracked down through extensive research.