Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

By Bolton, Charles C. | The Oral History Review, Summer-Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?


Bolton, Charles C., The Oral History Review


WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN? Produced by George King. Atlanta: Southern Regional Council, 1997.26 radio broadcasts. 9 cassette tapes, $135.00; 13 compact discs, $150.00. Southern Regional Council, 133 Carnegie Way, Suite 900, Atlanta, GA 30303-1024.

In recent years, historians of the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s have moved beyond the central narrative that follows Martin Luther King, Jr. from Montgomery to Selma and focused on both the World War II-era roots of the black freedom struggle and the array of local activists and actions that ultimately defined the shape of the movement. Will the Circle Be Unbroken? is an audio history of the civil rights movement that offers an informative and valuable look at the efforts of some of these local people who struggled for civil fights in five Southern states--Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The history originally aired in 1997 and 1998 as twenty-six half-hour programs on over 250 public radio stations across the United States.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken? skillfully weaves together oral histories, sound recordings from the 1950s and 1960s, and a diverse selection of music from the era to tell the story primarily of the local movements in Little Rock, Jackson, Montgomery, Atlanta, and Columbia, the five capitals of the states covered by the audio history. For South Carolina, the series focuses on the early attempts by local activists, such as J.M. Hinton and Harry and Eliza Briggs, to undermine Jim Crow by signing on in the 1940s to the NAACP's legal assault on segregation; one of these actions became part of the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. Other South Carolina segments detail the direct action campaign against segregation in Columbia and the Orangeburg Massacre of 1968.

Most of the Alabama programs revolve around the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 and emphasize the mass mobilization of the city's black population that made the boycott a success. Blacks in Montgomery had organized to push for changes long before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, through organizations such as the Women's Political Council, led by black college professor Jo Ann Gibson Robinson. A final Alabama episode details a number of post-boycott events, including the formation of King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Freedom Rides of 1961, and the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march of 1965.

Three of the five Arkansas segments explore the Little Rock school integration crisis of 1957, highlighting the courageous efforts of the Little Rock Nine, who desegregated Central High School, and the decisive role played by federal intervention in breaking white resistance. The Mississippi story looks at the development of the Jackson movement, led by Medgar Evers and supported largely by Tougaloo College and local high school students. This local struggle is set against the often-violent white resistance to racial change in the state, which led to the death of Evers, among others.

Finally, five segments of the series discuss the Atlanta movement. …

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