Author Benjamin Hedin sits down with City Lights to talk about how he became involved in the civil rights movement, the successes and shortcomings of the Black Lives Matter movement, and his new book with City Lights, In Search of the Movement: The Struggle for Civil Rights Then and Now.
City Lights teamed up with Radio Silence and author Benjamin Hedin to celebrate the release of Hedin’s newest book, In Search of the Movement: The Struggle for Civil Rights Then and Now. At the event, Benjamin Hedin shares excerpts and comments on the difficult questions that he tackles in his book about the civil rights movement.
Recently, the New York Times featured an article that described the reversion of Little Rock’s schools to all-black or all-white. The next day, the paper printed a story about a small town in Alabama where African Americans were being denied access to the polls. Massive demonstrations in cities across the country protest the killing of black men by police, while we celebrate a series of 50th-anniversary commemorations of the signature events of the Civil Rights movement. In such a time it is important to ask: In the last fifty years, has America progressed on matters of race, or are we stalled—or even moving backward?
With these questions in mind, Benjamin Hedin set out to look for the Civil Rights movement. “I wanted to find the movement in its contemporary guise,” he writes, “which also meant answering the critical question of what happened to it after the 1960s.” In In Search of the Movement: The Struggle for Civil Rights Then and Now, he profiles legendary figures like John Lewis, Robert Moses, and Julian Bond, and also visits with contemporary leaders such as William Barber II and the staff of the Dream Defenders. But just as powerful—and instructional—are the stories of those whose work goes unrecorded, the organizers and teachers who make all the rest possible.
In the pages of In Search of the Movement the movement is portrayed as never before, as a vibrant tradition of activism that remains in our midst. In Search of the Movement is a fascinating meditation on the patterns of history, as well as an indelible look at the meaning and limits of American freedom.
Benjamin Hedin has written for The New Yorker, Slate, The Nation, and The Chicago Tribune. He’s the editor of Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader, and the producer and author of a forthcoming documentary film, The Blues House.
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