Today I’m talking with Jeanne Theoharis about her book, “A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History”.
The civil rights movement has become national legend, lauded by presidents from Reagan to Obama to Trump, as proof of the power of American democracy. This fable, featuring dreamy heroes and accidental heroines, has shuttered the movement firmly in the past, whitewashed the forces that stood in its way, and diminished its scope. Historian Jeanne Theoharis dissects this national myth-making, teasing apart the accepted stories to show them in a strikingly different light.
By showing us the complex reality of the movement, the power of its organizing, and the beauty and scope of the vision, Theoharis reveals that there was nothing natural or inevitable about the progress that occurred. In unearthing our civil rights legacy, “A More Beautiful and Terrible History”, holds an uncomfortable mirror to the nation, underscoring the crucial work that remains to be done.
Jeanne Theoharis is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of City University of New York. She is author or co-author of seven books, including the New York Times best-selling and 2014 NAACP Image Award-winning, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.