I've Got the Light of Freedom by
Publication Date: 2007
This momentous work offers a groundbreaking history of the early civil rights movement in the South. Using wide-ranging archival work and extensive interviews with movement participants, Charles Payne uncovers a chapter of American social history forged locally, in places like Greenwood, Mississippi, where countless unsung African Americans risked their lives for the freedom struggle. The leaders were ordinary women and men--sharecroppers, domestics, high school students, beauticians, independent farmers--committed to organizing the civil rights struggle house by house, block by block, relationship by relationship. Payne brilliantly brings to life the tradition of grassroots African American activism, long practiced yet poorly understood. While historians have commonly portrayed the movement leadership as male, ministerial, and well-educated, Payne finds that organizers in Mississippi and elsewhere in the most dangerous parts of the South looked for leadership to working-class rural Blacks, and especially to women.