Olson, Freedom’s Daughters: A Juneteenth Story

 Lynne Olson, a former reporter, is the author of Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour (Random House 2010).  Browsing my local bookstore today — Juneteenth — it was her 2002 book, Freedom’s Daughters: A Juneteenth Story, that caught my eye.  

Here’s the review from Publishers Weekly:

As Olson recounts it, the day after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, the city’s black leaders held a mass meeting to promote a boycott. It was December 1955, and the meeting was packed with ministers and others who wanted to speak, among them Parks. The crowd never heard from her. “You’ve said enough,” one of the leaders told her. And with that, Olson says, Parks became a shining example of the role of women in the Civil Rights movement: they got things started and the men took the spotlight. With a large supply of such examples, Olson, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, showcases in this extensively researched history women like Ida Mae “Cat” Holland, a Mississippi prostitute whose failed attempt to proposition a leader in the voter registration drive of the early 1960s led her to a life of activism and, eventually, a Ph.D. and an academic career. We read about Fannie Lou Hamer, a poorly educated Mississippi native who movement leaders said could get people more worked up than Martin Luther King Jr. Ruby Doris Smith Robinson was the only woman to hold a top leadership job in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Robinson died of cancer at 25, but her female colleagues think what really killed her was her effort to keep the movement together. In simple but engaging prose, Olson offers a stunning portrait gallery of little-known heroines that will appeal to any reader interested in civil rights and women’s history, and she explores the psychology behind the relationships between men and women, black and white, throughout a watershed period in American history.

Some of the ground that Olson covers is familiar, but much of it is not.  I was glad I picked up the book.

-Bridget Crawford

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