Friday, May 27, 2005

"Mighty Times" then and now

I was sorry I couldn't join Paul last night for the Carrboro screening of "Mighty Times: The Children's March," an Oscar-winning documentary "that tells the story of a group of young people in Birmingham, Alabama, who braved fire hoses and police dogs in 1963 in a fight against segregation in their town." Tim Tyson, Reg Hildebrand, and Chuck Stone led the after-discussion.

Tim's book about some mighty times up in Oxford, N.C., has sold 50,000 copies. That's great. It'll be more by the time UNC gets through with it. This is a book about confronting the past straight on. Toward the end of it, Tim lays it out:

We cannot address the place we find ourselves because we will not acknowledge the road that brought us here. Our failure to confront the historical truth about how African Americans finally won their freedom presents a major obstacle to genuine racial reconciliation. In some instances, white people rose to the call of conscience, though only a handful followed their convictions into the streets. More often, what grabbed white America’s attention was the chaos in those streets. . . . The civil rights movement knocked down the formal and legal barriers to equal citizenship, but failed to give most African Americans real power in this society.

The reception in Oxford is, naturally enough, mixed.

"I know some people in town are angry about the book," said author Tim Tyson, who spent part of his growing-up time in Oxford and was 10 years old in 1970. He noted that a friend told him the book divided white Oxford into two camps, "the people who were angry about the book and the people who had read the book."

It's a book well worth reading in our own not so mighty time.

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