Anniston, Alabama, is a small industrial city between Birmingham and Atlanta. In 1961, the city’s potential for race-related violence was graphically revealed when the Ku Klux Klan firebombed a Freedom Riders bus. In response to that incident, a few black and white leaders in Anniston took a progressive view that desegregation was inevitable and that it was better to unite the community than to divide it. To that end, the city created a biracial Human Relations Council which set about to quietly dismantle Jim Crow segregation laws and customs. This was such a novel notion in George Wallace’s Alabama that President Kennedy phoned with congratulations. The Council did not prevent all disorder in Anniston—there was one death and the usual threats, crossburnings, and a widely publicized beating of two black ministers—yet Anniston was spared much of the civil rights bitterness that raged in other places in the turbulent mid-sixties. Author Phil Noble’s account is carefully researched but told from a personal viewpoint. It shows once again that the civil rights movement was not monolithic either for those who were in it or those who were opposed to it.
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