A book both timely and powerful, “The Movement Made Us,” offers a non-fiction account of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s as told by a New Orleans father to his son.

Published by Harper’s in May 2022, the book gives a realistic, first-person description of the opposition to human rights for people of African descent in the South and the strategies that took down segregationist laws.

This book offers lessons for these times when attitudes of white superiority are having a resurgence. The nonviolence, the strategies, the creation of community and the toll of fighting are only a few of the themes in “The Movement Made Us.”  In addition, this book’s authentic recounting of domestic terrorism reflects the challenges we are facing now.

This is the 1961 arrest photo for CORE member Dave Dennis as a Freedom Rider in Jackson, Mississippi. At the time he was a 20-year-old student at Dillard University. Credit: The Mississippi Department of Archives and History

David J. Dennis Sr. was a student at Dillard University when he joined the Congress of Racial Equality. He later became an architect of civil rights strategies.  

“Cultivating friendships with James Baldwin, Fannie Lou Hamer … and other leading lights of the movement, Dennis Sr. continued his activism into the 1970s, when, weary (and none too impressed with many clueless White would-be allies), he slipped into despair and drugs, ‘lost in his own fury,’ as his son describes,” according to  Kirkus Reviews.

If these themes are familiar to insiders, they may be new to youth. It’s a history lesson for all of us to understand our past and who we are as a result.


Another book that remains a cogent history of the movement is Sybil Haydel Morial’s memoir “Witness to Change.” It is an additional first-person recounting by a New Orleanian at an important period in history when lives were being changed.

Morial grew up in segregation and made many strides for the community (not the least of them being the wife of the first Black mayor of New Orleans and the mother to a later one — Ernest “Dutch” Morial and Marc Morial).

In her own right, she worked with friends like Ambassador Andrew Young, New Orleans Public Library advocate Rosa F. Keller, and Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to create better opportunities for all of us.

She tested segregationist laws by trying to enroll in Tulane and Loyola universities — before attending Boston University. She aided Black voter registration by creating the Louisiana League of Good Government, and she supported innumerable civic causes.

I was blessed to know her family as neighbors around the corner. Her description of the 7th Ward is not to be missed, nor is her white-gloved heroism.

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Fatima Shaik is the author of seven books including "Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood," the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities 2022 Book of the Year. She is a native of...