McKinney’s book is meticulous in its research and is a welcome treatment, in language and assessment, of the vitality of local civil rights struggles to a unified national movement that changed America. (Journal of American History)
Greater Freedom is more than just a compelling narrative of the efforts of the black citizens of Wilson and Wilson County to achieve civil and economic rights. Charles McKinney has skillfully demonstrated the value of detailed local studies in understanding how the entire civil rights movement became a sum of all of its parts. This work challenges scholars to pay attention to temporal boundaries and also to be aware that the many unknown actors in local studies are perhaps the true heroes and heroines of the black freedom struggle. McKinney has made an important contribution to the overall synthesis of civil rights studies and set a high standard for those wishing to follow in his footsteps. (North Carolina Historical Review)
A notable addition to the growing body of 'bottom up' civil rights studies is Charles McKinney's Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina. McKinney succeeds in providing civil rights scholarship with a concisely written and thoroughly researched local study. . . .Greater Freedom, which sprang forth from over a decade of research and writing, provides its audience with a noteworthy grassroots chronicle. MicKinney's activist history responsibly employs a cross-social approach in chronicling the aims and empowerment of people from varied economic, educational, occupational, and gender backgrounds. This academic piece is a valuable addition to the expansive field of local civil rights study. (The Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians)
With a compelling storytelling style, Charles McKinney paints a vibrant, complex portrait of the civil rights struggle in…Wilson. He details African-American networks and movement centers, making visible the long-term commitment and small steps that served as the base for the more dramatic, visible moments…[McKinney] makes a major contribution, bringing to life the ways class and gender played out in the…movement….He expands our sense of movement goals and actors in the ongoing quest for 'greater freedom.' (Emilye Crosby, author of A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi)
Historians have longed for granular and detailed local studies of the epochal Civil Rights Movement. Now with… this beautifully written, adroitly researched and brilliantly argued book, their prayers have been answered resoundingly. (Gerald Horne, author of Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising and the 1960s)
The…triumphalist tale that begins with a weary seamstress in Montgomery and ends on a bloody balcony in Memphis takes a telling blow in Charles McKinney's Greater Freedom… McKinney's deep insights into the local dynamics of African American freedom politics defy conventional understandings of 'civil rights' and 'Black Power,' revealing a hardscrabble landscape that historians…must incorporate as we move towards any valid new synthesis of the movement in the South. This is an important and much-needed contribution to African American and Southern history. (Timothy B. Tyson, author of Radio Free Dixie and Blood Done Sign My Name)
About the Author
Charles W. McKinney, Jr. is an assistant professor of history at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.