'We Shall Overcome': Reliving the Civil Rights Era

Policemen lead school children to jail for protesting discrimination in Birmingham, Ala., 1963.

Policemen lead school children to jail for protesting discrimination in Birmingham, Ala., 1963. Sourcebooks hide caption

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Activist and Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader Ella Baker

Activist and Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader Ella Baker helped to create the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Sourcebooks hide caption

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From 'We Shall Overcome'

Hear full-length selections from the audio CDs included in Herb Boyd's historical narrative:

Listen: Ossie Davis Narrates the Battle of Wills Between Gov. George Wallace and President John F. Kennedy

Listen: Ruby Dee Narrates the Events of the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles, Calif.

History demonstrates that from great pain often comes great progress — an axiom proven true during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and '60s, when America confronted an ugly heritage of racism.

One of the defining moments of the movement occurred 49 years ago Wednesday. On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama's capital — a simple act of defiance that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and thrust the debate over equal rights for all races into the national spotlight.

Using words, archive photos and rare recordings, veteran anthologist Herb Boyd has created a "living history" chronicling American's civil rights movement with his new book We Shall Overcome: The History of the Civil Rights Movement As It Happened. He talks with NPR's Tavis Smiley about his book, which comes with two audio CDs narrated by longtime activists and actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

Their words and the words of the top players in the fight — President John F. Kennedy, Gov. George Wallace, Malcolm X and many others — give an up-close view of a grass roots movement for social justice and equality that grew stronger in the face of adversity.

Books Featured In This Story

We Shall Overcome

by Herb Boyd, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Hardcover, 263 pages | purchase

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