Deep South Dispatch Memoir of a Civil Rights Journalist (Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography)

Review :

Written in the style of the life-long newspaperman that he was, Herbers takes the reader briefly through his early life and upbringing. His parents came from wealthy families but were themselves poor. They moved around frequently, running small groceries in different parts of the South, particularly Mississippi. Herbers had a happy childhood, served in the military in WW II, returned and got married, went to college on the GI Bill, and got a job as a reporter for UP in Mississippi.

This is where the book really gets moving as Herbers began covering the civil rights movement from a close perspective. He was always under pressure to get the story first and fast, despite a lack of resources. UP, and later UPI, had many subscribing newspapers throughout the South, and some were very unhappy with the coverage given to the civil rights movement. They wanted it downplayed, not featured, and often gave Herbers a hard time over it, especially after he became bureau chief in Jackson.

He moved the the NY Times. He was based initially in Atlanta, and describes how he was present at some many major events of the movement. In particular, he covered King in Montgomery and, most importantly, Selma. There's a lot of detail about the events which Herbers witnessed at close hand, even as Southern sheriffs were penning up reporters, mobs were threatening them, and violence was all around.

The book closes with a moving account by Herbers, now 90 and in an assisted living facility, having a reunion with 74 year old John Lewis. Together they looked back fifty years to the movement, to its many accomplishments, and to recent attempts to roll them back.


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