by Preston Ewing Jr. edited by Jan Preston Roddy
When a young African American soldier at home on leave was found hanged in a Cairo, Illinois, police station in 1967, the black and white populations of this historic southern Illinois river city clashed violently. Once ignited, their fury raged on for seven years. Preston Ewing Jr. and Jan Peterson Roddy combine on-the-scene photography, archival material, and eyewitness narration to document a time of danger and change played out at the crossroads between America's deep South and her midwestern heartland. At the core of this book are 110 remarkable black-and-white photographs by Ewing, selected from the thousands he made while serving as local NAACP president in Cairo. These images, by turns tender, brutal, somber, and heroic, record the archetypal American theme of ordinary people fighting for justice. They comprise a compelling personal portrait of the bravery and persistent faith of individuals caught up in one of the defining historical and social movements of this century. Excerpts from participants' oral histories illuminate Ewing's photographs and combine with news clippings, public documents, and essays by Marva Nelson and Cherise Smith to put the attitudes, events, and images of Cairo in a national context and examine photography's unique position in presenting and preserving history. Because the clash in Cairo serves as a microcosm of the national civil rights struggle in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Let My People Go enables the reader to look behind the scenes of a powerful grass-roots movement that mirrored similar conflicts throughout the country. The faces and voices captured by Ewing and Roddy at once preserve the human face and spirit of the movement and reveal the enormous complexity of the struggle recorded through an uncommon convergence of compelling photographic documentation and human testimony.
Paperback: 93 pages