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Bruce Hartford’s “Troublemaker” Memories of the Freedom Movement

Posted on 02 September 2019 by Barbara Beckwith (0)

I couldn’t put it down: Hartford’s memoir is largely about his four years as a white CORE “foot soldier” in the Black Freedom movement in Alabama and Mississippi. He describes beatings and death threats but makes clear the far greater and life-long risks facing Black people who protested. marched, tried to register to vote, or simply opened their home to him. He describes how many county sheriff’s got paid for every arrest, court document, prison transfer – plus a share of criminal and traffic fines – which sounds like Ferguson (Dept of Justice found the city’s coffers depended on unjustified, ever escalating fines). Being part of organizing that resulted in 20% of voting age Crenshaw County citizens attempting to register and 101 of the 462 managing to do so, is impressive. He conveys the CORE culture (“no praise, compliments, affirmations, acknowledgements, and “touchy feel” human relations simply weren’t part of our task-oriented organizational culture”). His memoir is infused with both humor and realism: it ends with “no social struggle EVER succeeds as much as the participant want or hope, but doing the best you can in the situation you face is how progress is made, however slow and frustrating that may be.” His perspective: “My part was small but it was a part nonetheless in a story that would, and does, echo down the generations.”

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