GOD'S LONG SUMMER: STORIES OF FAITH AND CIVIL RIGHTS, by Charles Marsh (Princeton University Press, 276 pp.; $24.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Randy Frame.
Those who read Charles Marsh's God's Long Summer will no longer be able to hear unqualified statements about how grand life was in the fifties without considering such sentiments at best hopelessly nave and, at worst, morally repugnant. With vivid description and chilling analysis, Marsh evokes the violence and oppression in the South of the civil-rights era.
The reference in the title is to the summer of 1964, a season that in many ways served as a cradle for the movement toward freedom. Though this pivotal summer functions as a regular reference point, the book is organized primarily around five detailed character studies. All five persons are motivated by their understanding of Christian faith, yet the presuppositions, values, and goals that inform their behavior during God's long summer and beyond could not be more disparate.
We meet Fannie Lou Hamer, a poor, uneducated black woman from rural Mississippi who found herself in the national spotlight at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. Having led a nonviolent movement aimed at gaining fair political representation for all, she became vice-presidential-hopeful Hubert Humphrey's "project." Humphrey had been dispatched by President Lyndon Johnson, who referred to Hamer as "that illiterate." Humphrey's options were to extinguish the fires of discontent within the party or risk seeing his name dropped from the ticket. Hamer looked him in the eye and said, "Now if you lose this job of vice president because you are right, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take [the vice-presidential ...1