My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gripping, overwhelming in detail, and narrated as only a seasoned journalist can, Fighting the Devil in Dixie is a no-holds-barred recounting of the gradual and inevitable victory of conscience and humanity over selfishness and insufferable oppression in Alabama. It is a historical accounting of Civil Rights struggle in a state where a politician’s cry of “Segregation forever!” rallied the populace.
Wayne Greenhaw writes in an engaging, impersonal style. His intimate familiarity with events in Alabama, and the civil rights struggle, makes the stories lucid…to the point that reading them brings up deep and unpleasant emotions. I found myself transported into the times, the places, and at times struggled to comprehend, or even recognize, the attitudes and inhumanity of the period. I did skip paragraphs, even pages at times, for the stories are innumerable, and the hate experienced intolerable. One can only imagine the suffering of the oppressed section of the population…ameliorated gradually (perhaps far too gradually) through non-violent methods, by a struggle between the Federal and State courts of America, and by appealing to conscience and humanity. Wayne is to be commended for a comprehensive journalistic work.
Nevertheless, I did feel that the work, through its unbiased reporting, did not offer any hope of intrinsic, spiritual, transformation in populations that lived through the times, places, and events described. I wonder if anything much has changed, even in the present, as evidenced by statistics of prison populations, harsh judgments against minorities, and extra-judicial killing of African American and Hispanic members of citizenry by law enforcement of all states of the United States of America. A sense, a deep feeling, that laws and enforcement do not change hearts and minds remains ever present as one goes through the book.
For an immigrant to America, even one who has lived for nearly a generation here, there is no more disheartening message than this realization. Perhaps I am biased: my own work, Humbling and Humility, delves into willful corruption and discrimination in the legal system here.
I do recommend Wayne Greenhaw’s book to anyone desirous of comprehensive education in the Civil Rights struggle, the attitudes that divided people in the times and places described, and a legal and largely non-violent approach that brought about gradual change.
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