9780807123522

Farther Along : A Civil Rights Memoir

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780807123522

  • ISBN10:

    0807123528

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 1999-04-01
  • Publisher: Louisiana State Univ Pr
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Summary

In 1946, shortly after discharge from the army, Marvin Caplan found himself in Richmond, Virginia, hoping to evade his father's kosher butcher business in Philadelphia and pursue an opportunity to write. There in the segregated South, he witnessed the daily humiliations of racial divide. He saw no option but to join the local civil rights campaigns, and that choice determined his life's direction. Over four decades, Caplan -- white, Jewish, male, a native northerner -- crafted his career, volunteered his free time, chose his neighborhood, and raised his children against the yardstick of racial justice. Farther Along is this passionate liberal's candid retelling of his lifelong work to change society. After four years in Richmond, Caplan moved to Washington to take a job as a reporter, eventually covering Capitol Hill. In 1963 he was tapped to direct the D.C. office of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, where he remained until 1981 lobbying for the basic civil rights laws of our time. Caplan also became a founder and the first president of Neighbors, Inc., a Washington group devoted to combating housing discrimination and creating genuinely integrated communities. In his memoir, Caplan doesn't paint himself a hero for his actions. "Picketing, for me, " he admits, "was a painful obligation." He describes qualms about risking his job to protest alongside Mary Church Terrell for the desegregation of Washington's public eating establishments, about sending his children to a school 90 percent black, and, in the early cold war years, about associating with integrationists of communist bent. Still, a sense of purpose so self-evidently right energized Caplan and others at thegrassroots level, and he renders with compelling eloquence the endless hours of picketing, protesting, stuffing and mailing, organizing, and arguing -- as well as the less public moments of quietly living one's convictions. Through Caplan's first-person perspective, Washington during the eventful decades of the fifties, sixties, and early seventies comes alive. In a suspenseful script of the Civil Rights Act of 1963-64, he reconstructs the strategizing, debates, and maneuvering in the chambers, back rooms, and halls of Congress and the White House. Especially moving is his recollection of watching the spread of the news of Kennedy's assassination as reflected in the slowing traffic scene outside his office window. Today this self-described "blinkered optimist" still lives in his racially mixed neighborhood and remains committed to the causes to which he devoted years of work. In an era when "unstylish beliefs" like Caplan's provoke cynicism and dejection, his story brings the refreshing reminder and the encouraging perspective that forty years later we're "farther along" and "we'll understand it all by and by."

Table of Contents

Prefatory Note xiii
Prologue 1(6)
PART I From Philadelphia to Richmond, 1941-1951
Here's Where I'm Coming From
7(10)
An Ofay in the Capital of the Confederacy
17(12)
In the Company of Women
29(14)
``You Boys'll Wear Yourselves Out''
43(16)
Red Rumblings
59(17)
La Guerra Alegre
76(31)
PART II Washington, D.C.: The Fight to Desegregate the Restaurants, 1951-1953
On the Hecht Company Picket Line
107(15)
Life in a ``Leftist Nest''
122(13)
Eat Anywhere!
135(10)
PART III Washington, D.C.: Neighbors, Incorporated, 1957
The Last White Family on the Block
145(6)
Embattled
151(10)
Neighbors, Incorporated
161(20)
PART IV The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, 1963-1981
A Crucial Change
181(16)
The Fight for the 1963 Act Begins
197(14)
An Unexpected Ally
211(9)
Walls Come Tumbling Down
220(16)
A Grim Time: 1972
236(9)
PART V Back to Old Stamping Grounds, 1981-
I Become an Unpaid Volunteer Again
245(14)
Here and Now
259(14)
Index 273

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