Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Aram Goudsouzian

Aram Goudsouzian is chair of the history department at the University of Memphis. He earned his B.A. from Colby College and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He is the author of King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution, The Hurricane of 1938, and Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon.

His new book is Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear.

From Goudsouzian's Q & A with Leonard Gill for the Memphis Flyer:

Why has James Meredith's "March Against Fear" not been the subject of a large-scale study such as yours?

Aram Goudsouzian: It's a familiar story to historians. They know the Meredith march is where "black power" began and Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King were on it. It's discussed in the big biographies of King. In Taylor Branch's, for example. But there's been nothing particularly in-depth. People focus on Selma in '65 or Memphis in '68. The Meredith march got caught in the cracks somehow.

But part of the appeal of this story for me is that it's relatively self-contained. The march took place over the course of three weeks, but it allows you to talk about so many aspects of the civil rights movement. The personalities give you so many different perspectives. It basically collects every major figure in the movement.

James Meredith being one of them. He was the focus of national attention when he integrated the University of Mississippi years earlier. But he's also been a figure hard for historians to estimate as a civil rights leader.

To some degree, he's an impossible man to explain, because he's so full of contradictions. He purposely likes to mask himself. He was my first interview for this book, and he started out by telling me, "James Meredith ain't nothing but a trickster."

I do think there are consistent elements to his ideology that date back to Ole Miss and continue when people thought he'd gone off the deep end — supporting Jesse Helms and David Duke. But...[read on]
Visit Aram Goudsouzian's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Down to the Crossroads.

My Book, The Movie: Down to the Crossroads.

--Marshal Zeringue