What was it like growing up white in Mississippi as the civil rights movement exploded in the 1950s and ’60s? How did some white children reconcile the decency and fairness taught by their parents with the indecency and unfairness of the Mississippi “Way of Life,” the euphemism applied to Jim Crow segregation? Won Over examines these questions as it traces the life journey of United States District Judge William Alsup, born in Mississippi in 1945 to hard-working parents who believed in segregation but also in fairness and decency. Therein lay the struggle at the core of the human predicament in the South. Alsup’s memoir recounts the influences that drew the author from traditional Southern attitudes toward a color-blind ideal. Those influences included his older sister, Willanna, his closest circle of friends, a charismatic mentor in college, and the moral force of the civil rights movement. Won Over recalls some of his steps along that journey—a counterprotest to a John Birch Society billboard calling for the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren; a personal meeting with the brother of slain leader Medgar Evers to convey condolences; a letter to the editor of the statewide paper on behalf of his circle of friends declaring “We are for civil rights for Negroes”; a successful 1966 challenge to a statewide ban on “controversial” speakers on college campuses, used to prevent blacks from being invited to speak; and a visit to a Chicago church to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak against housing and employment discrimination.
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