"Newspaper people fancy themselves as writing the first drafts of history. James, with the benefit of thirty years of hindsight and reflection, has produced a damn fine second draft."
Drawing on the author's long career as a southern journalist, this series of closely related sketches, stories, and essays recounts what James calls the "hidden story of the civil rights movement." Set mainly in Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, these pieces tell of the individuals and localities whose identities are lost in the widely accepted history of the movement.
James also depicts many of the era's well-known figures, revealing private sides known to very few outside political and journalistic circles. In his profiles of famous public figures from Barry Goldwater and Lady Bird Johnson to Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson, James offers a challenging mix of comments and criticisms related to ethics, ambition, and public spirit. In these pieces he also imparts the ambience of the hard-drinking, hard-talking relationship between journalists and public figures that has since evaporated into the cynicism of press packets, photo opportunities, and exposés.
From his chronicle of a decade-long battle for the political control of one rural Alabama county to his vignette on a White Mothers of America protest, James provides new perspectives on the people and places, confrontations and compromises that have shaped the New South.
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