A few choice words from Rosa Parks inspired the son of a Klansman to pursue a life in the Freedom Struggle.
In the course of accepting the Lillian Smith Book Award for 2009, Bob Zellner announced that his long-awaited memoir of a white Southerner in the Civil Rights Movement will soon become a major motion picture produced by Spike Lee.
The video below captures the challenge that Toby Graham issued to all of us in presenting the award, as well as Zellner's commentary on the persistence of racism in today's world.
"Even forty years after the movement, the transition from son and grandson of Klansmen to field secretary of SNCC seems quite a journey. In the early 1960s, when Bob Zellner’s professors and classmates at a small church school in Alabama thought he was crazy for even wanting to do research on civil rights, it was nothing short of remarkable.
"Now, in his long-awaited memoir, Zellner tells how one white Alabamian joined ranks with the black students who were sitting-in, marching, fighting, and sometimes dying to challenge the Southern “way of life” he had been raised on but rejected.
"Decades later, he is still protesting on behalf of social change and equal rights. Fortunately, he took the time, with co-author Constance Curry, to write down his memories and reflections. He was in all the campaigns andwas close to all the major figures. He was beaten, arrested, and reviled by some but admired and revered by others.
"The Wrong Side of Murder Creek is Bob Zellner’s larger-than-life story, and it was worth waiting for. Zellner now lives and teaches in New York state. Atlanta-based co-author Curry is also a civil rights veteran and has written several books and directed a documentary film."