Cradle of Freedom puts a human face on the story of the black American struggle for equality in Alabama during the 1960s. While exceptional leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Fred Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, and others rose up from the ranks and carved their places in history, the burden of the movement was not carried by them alone. It was fueled by the commitment and hard work of thousands of everyday people who decided that the time had come to take a stand.
Cradle of Freedom is tied to the chronology of pivotal events occurring in Alabama the Montgomery bus boycott, the Freedom Rides, the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, Bloody Sunday, and the Black Power movement in the Black Belt. Gaillard artfully interweaves fresh stories of ordinary people with the familiar ones of the civil rights icons. We learn about the ministers and lawyers, both black and white, who aided the movement in distinct ways at key points. We meet Vernon Johns, King's predecessor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, who first suggested boycotting the buses and who wrote later, "It is a heart strangely un-Christian that cannot thrill with joy when the least of men begin to pull in the direction of the stars." We hear from John Hulett who tells how terror of lynching forced him down into ditches whenever headlights appeared on a night road. We see the Edmund Pettus Bridge beatings from the perspective of marcher JoAnne Bland, who was only a child at the time. We learn of E. D. Nixon, a Pullman porter who helped organize the bus boycott and who later choked with emotion when, for the first time in his life, a white man extended his hand in greeting to him on a public street.
How these ordinary people rose to the challenges of an unfair system with a will and determination that changed their times forever is a fascinating and extraordinary story that Gaillard tells with his hallmark talent. Cradle of Freedom unfolds with the dramatic flow of a novel, yet it is based on meticulous research. With authority and grace, Gaillard explains how the southern state deemed the Cradle of the Confederacy became with great struggle, some loss, and much hope the Cradle of Freedom.
Contents Prologue 000 Part 1 Daybreak 1. We Are Not Wrong 000 2. The Resistance 000 3. The Courts and the Klan 000 4. The Price of Victory 000 Part 2 The Belly of the Beast 5. A Ten Dollar Fine 000 6. The Burning of the Bus 000 7. The Message 000 8. "The Line in the Dust" 000 Part 3 The Shadow of Death 9. A History of Hate 000 10. Bull Connor's Mistake 000 11. "Keep On Pushing" 000 12. The Schoolhouse Door 000 13. "I Have a Dream" 000 14. The Patent Leather Shoe 000 15. Eyes on the Prize 000 Part 4 Revolution 16. The Battle Plan 000 17. Bloody Sunday 000 18. "The Arc Is Long" 000 Part 5 Black Power 19. The Martyrs and the Law 000 20. The Black Panthers 000 21. "A Messy Business" 000 22. The Sheriff without a Gun 000 23. Unfinished Business 000 Epilogue 000 Notes and Acknowledgments 000 Bibliography 000 Index 000
Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication: African Americans Civil rights Alabama History 20th century, Civil rights movements Alabama History 20th century, Alabama Race relations
“Alabama was the epicenter of the struggle. No state, not even Mississippi, was a bigger challenge for those working to obtain for themselves and others the basic rights and liberties due all Americans under our Constitution. . . . Nowhere will you find better explained the dangers facing black people who wanted change and the fear that gripped whites for whom change was unthinkable. . . . No single volume captures people and events better than this.”-- Harvey H. Jackson, Anniston Star
“Cradle of Freedom is the story of black men and women whose courage, love, and forgiveness demonstrate that changing people’s hearts is just as important as changing laws, if not more important. . . . It dramatically presents well-known events in fresh fashion . . . [and] captures the heart of the civil rights message in blacks’ refusal to descend to their white attackers’ depth of hatred.”-- Mobile Register
“A feel for the right details and deft, interpretive writing bring to history what DNA testing brings to innocence and guilt. . . . [Gaillard] cuts through the veneer of familiarity and takes us into the spit, sweat, and marrow of 40-year-old events.”-- Charlotte Observer