Jerry GershenhornOct 7, 2020
Louis Austin and the Carolina Times
A Life in the Long Black Freedom Struggle
University of North Carolina Press 2018
Louis Austin and the Carolina Times: A Life in the Long Black Freedom Struggle (University of North Carolina Press, 2018) by Jerry Gershenhorn is a history of the struggle for Black equality in North Carolina from 1927 to 1971 as told through the life and activism of Black newspaperman Louis Austin. Austin, as editor of the Carolina Times, was involved in nearly every facet of the long Black freedom struggle in North Carolina. He was an outspoken editor and a staunch social justice advocate who championed Black voter’s rights, school desegregation, and economic equality for nearly fifty years. Gershenhorn utilizes the phrase “long black freedom struggle” instead of the customary “long civil rights movement” in his narrative noting that in the 1930s and 1940s many of the customary characteristics of the Civil Rights Movement had not matured at this time in North Carolina and that during this time “mass direct action was the exception not the norm” (3).
This text contains an “Introduction” section, seven concise chapters, and an “Epilogue.” In his “Introduction,” Gershenhorn makes the case that Austin supported and engaged in the type of activism that ultimately came to define the Civil Rights Era, including embracing the sit-ins and school desegregation, unlike several other Black newspapermen in the South who were more accommodationist in their approaches. The first few Chapters trace Austin’s formative years as “the grandson of slaves” who grew up in a home that emphasized Black respectability and dignity. These Chapters also highlight the emergence of Austin as an “advocacy journalist” in North Carolina. Louis Austin and the Carolina Times is a critical text in helping us to understand the history of the Black freedom struggle in the South, Black journalism, and the integral role of the Black press in advancing racial equality for African Americans.
Hettie V. Williams Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of African American history in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University where she teaches courses in African American history and U.S. history. She has published book chapters, essays, and edited/authored five books. Her latest publications include Bury My Heart in a Free Land: Black Women Intellectuals in Modern U.S. History (Praeger, 2017) and, with Dr. G. Reginald Daniel, professor of historical sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Race and the Obama Phenomenon: The Vision of a More Perfect Multiracial Union (University Press of Mississippi 2014). Follow me on twitter: @DrHettie2017