They Finally Said “GO”

Posted on 12 October 2010 Tuesday

I had eight boxes of books arrive in my media center yesterday!! I began the work to finish processing them today and grabbed one book to read: We had sneakers, they had guns: the kids who fought for Civil Rights in Mississippi. In a fashion completely atypical in my reading process, I decided to do a little research prior to reading and found this video from the Library of Congress of the author, Tracy Sugarman.  I can’t upload the video here, but it is worth a listen.Sugarman begins his presentation by explaining why so many White students went to Mississippi when Black students couldn’t and he then proceeds to tell the stories of Linda Davis and Charles McLaurin. I met McLaurin this past summer. What a story.


No one experienced the 1964 Freedom Summer quite like Tracy Sugarman. As an illustrator and journalist, Sugarman covered the nearly one thousand student volunteers who traveled to the Mississippi Delta to assist black citizens in the South in registering to vote. He interviewed these activists, along with local civil rights leaders and black and white residents not directly involved in the movement, and drew the people and events that made the summer one of the most heroic chapters in America’s long march toward racial justice.

In We Had Sneakers, They Had Guns, Sugarman chronicles the sacrifices, tragedies, and triumphs of that unprecedented moment in our nation’s history. Two white students and one black student were slain in the struggle, many were beaten and hundreds arrested, and churches and homes were burned to the ground by the opponents of equality. Yet the example of Freedom Summer— whites united with heroic black Mississippians to challenge apartheid—resonated across the nation. The United States Congress was finally moved to pass the civil rights legislation that enfranchised the millions of black Americans who had been waiting for equal rights for a century.

Blending oral history with memoir, We Had Sneakers, They Had Guns draws the reader into the lives of Sugarman’s subjects, showing the passion and naiveté of the volunteers, the bravery of the civil rights leaders, and the candid, sometimes troubling reactions of the black and white Delta residents. Sugarman’s unique reportorial art, in word and image, makes this book a vital record of our nation’s past.

Posted in: Diversity Issues