This introduction was given by AFRO Publisher Jake Oliver when he served as moderator for the Simeon Booker book signing at Pratt Central Library.
Shocking the Conscience-A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement, is an excursion through the experiences of Black journalist Simeon Booker as he covered the events that made the news and Black History during the most important parts of the Civil Rights Movement of the latter part of the 20th Century.
As the Washington Bureau Chief for Ebony/ Jet, Mr. Booker covered just about every event that helped improve the basic rights of the Black community from integration to voting rights. During the course of his first hand involvement in these historical events, he interacted with just about all the high-level personalities we today only see in documentaries or read about in libraries.
From Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, the man many call the father of the civil rights movement in the early 1950's through Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, Booker shares his unique historical experiences and insight into these and many other of this country's leaders who have in some form or fashion shaped the rights many of us probably too often take for granted today.
This book opens in 1955 with the drama and uncertain fear Booker faced in his first trip into Mississippi as he and Jet photographer David Jackson travel to Mound Bayou, Miss. to cover an event that exposes the reader to the violent environment Negros faced –particularly if they were from the north, or were journalists.
From there Booker’s life reads like a roller coaster as he brings the reader from one historical civil rights event he covered for Jet like the Emmett Till murder and trial, through the violent battles surrounding Little Rock Central High integration, the too often over-looked 1957 March on Washington, the violence of the Freedom Riders of 1961, to the unbelievably vicious war to integrate the University of Mississippi in 1962.
This book is one you will not be able to put down not only because of the pace it sets, but also because of the journalism Booker uses to actually put you into his shoes to actually feel the taunts and insults of the mob in Little Rock as he covered the Little Rock Nine's entrance, or the excruciating pain from the beatings he witnessed in Anniston and Birmingham, Alabama while with the Freedom Riders.
The lessons and realism this book conveys are indeed exhausting. But through it all I believe the reader gets a heightened appreciation not only of the rights we have today as citizens of this great country, but also an understanding of why we need to continuously guard and protect those rights, which as we’ve seen over the past months, appear to be under constant siege either from the courts or political maneuvers.
It is not surprising that Mr. Booker has been the recipient of many honors as a result of the sacrifices he has made throughout his professional life to bring the Black community the news and insight it so terribly needed during really tough times. It appears that every major Black organization based in Washington has honored this gentleman from the Congressional Black Caucus to the National Association of Black Journalist (NABJ).
We too owe Mr. Booker an enormous debt of gratitude (along with his wife, journalist Carol McCabe Booker) for sharing, indeed, donating the enormous time and effort it must have taken to help us gain a depth of understanding of our history that only someone who has actually lived through the experiences he has, can convey.
This book is a must for any American family who believes in the value of this country's diverse history and the necessity of it being appreciated by future generations.