The U.S. certainly seems to be in a tense time these days, between riots and protests over police shootings and newly erupting marches and unrest over this week’s election results. As unsettling as it may be, though, these types of uprisings aren’t a new phenomenon. Check out these books about some of America’s most violent protests.
1. Jimmie Lee & James: Two Lives, Two Deaths, and the Movement that Shaped America by Steve Fiffer and Adar Cohen
In 1965, the police shooting of civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson led to a peaceful march from Selma, AL to Montgomery. Marchers were met with Alabama state troopers, who responded with excessive and deadly force. A subsequent march resulted in the death of another activist, minister James Reeb. This book examines these events, and the American culture that created them, in great detail.
2. Through Survivors’ Eyes: From the Sixties to the Greensboro Massacre by Sally Avery Bermanzohn
On November 3, 1979, KKK members and neo-Nazis opened fire on a group of demonstrators in Greensboro, NC, killing five people and injuring another ten. And not one of the murderers was found guilty, even after two trials. This book recounts the painful story of six of the survivors.
3. 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence by Howard Means
On Monday, May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a group of Vietnam War protesters on the campus of Kent State University. When the chaos cleared, four students were dead and nine were wounded. Means tells the tales of the protests and resulting violence through first-hand accounts of survivors.
4. Geography of Rage: Remembering the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 by Jervey Tervalon and Cristian A. Sierra
Published on the tenth anniversary of the worst riots in the history of Los Angeles, CA, this book offers personal essays from many who experienced the horror of the violent protests that ensued after the acquittal of three of the officers accused of brutally beating Rodney King after a traffic stop.
5. Ferguson: America’s Breaking Point by Tim Suereth
The 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown sparked violent protests in Ferguson, MO, which were further exacerbated by a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who shot him. Suereth’s work examines the culture of racial disharmony in Ferguson that led up to the shooting and recounts the events of the riots themselves.
There’s a common saying…“if we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it.” Perhaps these reads will help us better understand the catalysts of violent protest and how to keep them from happening again. One can always hope.
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