The 2008 election of Barack Obama to the presidency marked a watershed moment in American history. Given our country’s eventful—and at times, quite ugly—past, there were some who heralded the moment as America turning a corner on race relations, as though a single election signaled the end to injustices dividing our people and fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream.
In fact, if anything, the ascension of President Obama as this country’s leader threw into heightened relief the deep racial divisions remaining. This is revealed in Civil Rights: Yesterday and Today, a sweeping new history written by veteran journalist Herb Boyd with historian and columnist Todd Steven Burroughs.
Boyd found that old animosities were given cover as detractors cried “Socialist!” and worse at the new president, while the opposition party took obstructionist positions to unheard-of heights, openly cheering for the failure of this administration. Civil Rights: Yesterday & Today takes a clear-eyed look at America’s distant past and finds its echoes reverberating to the present day. “So often with books about the Civil Rights Movement, you get so little about what happened before and after. Civil Rights: Yesterday and Today is an attempt to tie it all together,” said Boyd, author of more than 20 books. Boyd recently assisted acclaimed documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp with his Investigation Discovery cable television series on Civil Rights Movement-era cold cases, The Injustice Files. (Publishers’ Note: Beverly Terry’s story on this page.)
Civil Rights: Yesterday & Today features a Foreword from U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), an eyewitness and participant in some of the darkest days of the movement. As one who marched alongside Dr. King, he knows well of what he speaks when he says, “…the final frontier is in the hearts and minds of humankind.”
Through hundreds of startling, eye-catching images and poignant, insightful prose, Civil Rights: Yesterday & Today makes the case that, while the police dogs and fire hoses may be gone, racial injustice is still alive and well in the land of the free.
· There are more African-American citizens held in U.S. correctional control today than there were enslaved in the 1850s.
· Even today, the average white household is approximately eight times wealthier than the typical black household.
· The Black unemployment rate jumped from 8 to 16 percent during the recession while the white rate went from only 4 to 8 percent.
“These startling statistics and more illustrate the fact that the struggle for civil rights is not yet over,” says Burroughs. “Conversely, there is cause for hope.”
“Today, African-Americans make up the highest number of entrepreneurs in this country,” notes Boyd. “ ‘Cold case’ high-profile crimes against Blacks, such as
the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, have been successfully reopened in recent years, with convictions won. But there are so many more left unsolved. And the rate of African-Americans obtaining college diplomas has steadily increased since the 1950s, but they still remain below whites, and there’s no faith that the numbers will increase even further with the evidence that the nation’s education system is collapsing all across the country.”
“So while we’ve come a long way as a nation, says Boyd, what’s happened over the past few years represents a start, not anywhere near a solution or victory.”
Note to readers: Civil Rights: Yesterday & Today can be purchased at Mr. Brown’s True South Bookstore on Nostrand Avenue between Halsey and Hancock Streets in Brooklyn.