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 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, yet from Reconstruction until the 1960s, not one African-American was allowed to vote. This small-town minister and farmer led a 25-year struggle, ultimately convincing Attorney General Robert Kennedy to participate in his crusade, that 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. Without bitterness or anger, he chronicles almost 100 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.