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"WITNESS TO THE TRUTH" Book Summary

“Though I am quite familiar with the Civil Rights movement…, the exceptional account in “Witness to the Truth” made it the most vivid that I have ever read.”  William D. Pederson, Ph.D., American Studies Endowed Chair & Director International Lincoln Center, Louisiana State University

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Click here to read a portion of the story

Click here to read a portion of the story

Can a group of businessmen and governmental officials cause almost every black person in an entire state to be disqualified to vote in a single year?  Can black people living in an almost all-black town be denied the right to vote for 80 years? Was there a time of terrorism in America against black leadership so extreme that preachers taught their children to shoot? How did this last stand for racial separation shape the childhood and current attitudes of many of today's leaders?

Labeled by many as one of the top books to read about the civil rights struggle, award-winning Witness to the Truth by John H. Scott & Cleo Scott Brown answers these questions and many more in a powerful story about the cost of voting rights. Before there was Selma, a small-town civil rights leader had led and won his courageous campaign to win voting rights for African Americans in northeast Louisiana. In the almost all-black parish where Cleo's father, John H. Scott, grew up, black businesses, schools, and neighborhoods thrived in isolation from the white community. Although the settlement appeared self-sufficient, from Reconstruction until the 1960s, not one African-American was allowed to vote. This small-town minister and farmer led a twenty-five year struggle, ultimately convincing Attorney General Robert Kennedy to participate in his crusade, that graphically illustrates how persistent efforts by local citizens translated into a national movement and how ordinary people did and can impact a country.

Told in Scott's own words and recorded by his daughter Cleo Scott Brown, Witness to the Truth clearly illustrates the complexities of southern race relations and the lessons the country can learn from its history. Raised by grandparents who lived during slavery, Scott grew up learning about the horrors of that institution and he himself experienced the injustices of Jim Crow laws. Without bitterness or anger, he chronicles almost one hundred years of life in the rural south, including his grandparents’ recollections of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, and his own recollections of northern migrations, the displacement of black farmers during the New Deal, and the shocking methods white southerners used to keep African Americans under economic domination and away from the polls. A recipient of the A. P. Tureaud Citizens Award, Scott embodied the persistence, strength, raw courage and most of all wisdom required of African American leaders in the rural South, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s.



“This book was really an eye-opener for me. Before reading this book, I rarely voted, or only voted when it was ‘convenient’ for me. Since reading this book, I have made a promise to myself that I WILL VOTE at every election opened to me. I honestly did not realize how much people went through so that I could stand up at the polls and vote. I have learned more in that book than in any history I have ever read.

—Young adult reader, Baton Rouge