In 1962, James Meredith
became a civil rights hero when he enrolled as the first African
American student at the University of Mississippi. Four years later, he
would make the news again when he reentered Mississippi, on foot. His
plan was to walk from Memphis to Jackson, leading a “March Against Fear”
that would promote black voter registration and defy the entrenched
racism of the region. But on the march’s second day, he was shot by a
mysterious gunman, a moment captured in a harrowing and now iconic
What followed was one of the central dramas of the civil rights era. With Meredith in the hospital, the leading figures of the civil rights movement flew to Mississippi to carry on his effort. They quickly found themselves confronting southern law enforcement officials, local activists, and one another. In the span of only three weeks, Martin Luther King, Jr., narrowly escaped a vicious mob attack; protesters were teargassed by state police; Lyndon Johnson refused to intervene; and the charismatic young activist Stokely Carmichael ﬁrst led the chant that would deﬁne a new kind of civil rights movement: Black Power.
Aram Goudsouzian’s Down to the Crossroads is the story of the last great march of the King era, and the ﬁrst great showdown of the turbulent years that followed. Depicting rural demonstrators’ courage and the impassioned debates among movement leaders, Goudsouzian reveals the legacy of an event that would both integrate African Americans into the political system and inspire even bolder protests against it. Full of drama and contemporary resonances, this book is civil rights history at its best.
About the Author
Aram Goudsouzian is chair of the history department at the University of Memphis. He earned his B.A. from Colby College and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He is the author of King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution, The Hurricane of 1938, and Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.
Praise for Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear…
“In Down to the Crossroads, Aram Goudsouzian re-creates
the last great march of the civil rights movement in vibrant and
intimate detail. Through compelling prose and exciting storytelling,
Goudsouzian introduces contemporary readers to the central characters of
a great American drama: a historic political movement in transition,
precisely at the end of the era of nonviolent civil disobedience and the
beginning of the revolutionary politics of Black Power, militancy, and
armed resistance. This book is a must-read for anyone curious about the
sixties and about the roots of the political movement that elected
Barack Obama president.”
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University
—Peniel E. Joseph, professor of history at Tufts University and author of Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America and Stokely: A Life“Down to the Crossroads is a splendid addition to the literature of the southern struggle to overcome the Jim Crow system. It offers a vivid account of the tumultuous events that brought together the key civil rights leaders of the 1960s, and it deepens our understanding of their contrasting answers to Martin Luther King’s enduring question: Where do we go from here?”
—Clayborne Carson, founding director of Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute and author of Martin’s Dream: My Journey and the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.