“We Will Stand Here Till We Die:” Freedom Movement Shakes America, Shapes Martin Luther King Jr.

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Prize-winning historian Stewart Burns tells the epic story of the American freedom struggle of 1963 from Birmingham to the March on Washington and beyond.

Prize-winning historian Stewart Burns tells the epic story of the American freedom struggle of 1963 from Birmingham to the March on Washington and beyond.

We Will Stand Here Till We Die

Grounded in the solid scholarship for which he is respected, Professor Burns wrote “We Will Stand Here Till We Die” in lively, dramatic prose for people of all ages, from high school and college students and “Millennials” to Baby Boomers and beyond.

Half a century hence, prize-winning historian Stewart Burns tells the epic story of the American freedom struggle of 1963, from Birmingham to the March on Washington to the September church bombing, drawing important lessons for our time. As our nation celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg Address, this passionate, dramatic history honors the Civil Rights Movement and the “mystic chords of memory” that tie Lincoln’s leadership to King’s a century later.

The title quote, “We Will Stand Here Till We Die,” comes from Rev. Charles Billups. On “miracle Sunday,” May 8, 1963 (Mother’s Day), the Birmingham protesters he was leading were blocked by police and firemen with water cannons. These powerful words he yelled out compelled the firemen to drop their hoses, refusing direct orders barked by Police Commissioner Bull Connor. They let the protesters pass. That was the turning point toward victory. During the “Negro Revolution of 1963,” as King called it, millions of marching feet trampled Jim Crow. This book does justice to the other leaders who made history in 1963, such as Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Rev. James Bevel, Dorothy Cotton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Diane Nash, and the “foot soldiers” who were the prime movers—including the four girls murdered by the Klan on “Birmingham Sunday.”

In this concise volume (196 pp.), Stewart Burns masterfully weaves the history-making events of 1963 into the larger fabric of the Civil Rights Movement, showing how King and his crew applied lessons from earlier movements in Montgomery and in Albany, Georgia.

Like the Civil War legacy, we have much to learn from those powerful days to help us navigate the troubled waters of our own time. The Civil Rights Movement anchors our current strivings for human rights and social justice. It has inspired brave strides toward freedom in many other countries as well.

Grounded in the solid scholarship for which he is respected, Professor Burns wrote “We Will Stand Here Till We Die” in lively, dramatic prose for people of all ages, from high school and college students and “Millennials” to Baby Boomers and beyond.

About the Author

A distinguished historian of the Civil Rights Movement, Stewart Burns wrote the Wilbur Award winning biography of Martin Luther King Jr., To the Mountaintop (2004). A former editor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers at Stanford University, he produced the Montgomery bus boycott volume, Birth of a New Age. He published the first history of the bus boycott, Daybreak of Freedom, made into the HBO feature film Boycott (on which he consulted), winner of the NAACP Image Award (2002). Burns earned his Ph.D. in history and political philosophy at the University of California Santa Cruz and has taught at the University of California, Stanford, Antioch University, and Williams College. He currently shares leadership of the Center for Learning in Action at Williams.

Burns has worked for many years in movements for peace and social justice—protesting the Vietnam War, organizing for the United Farm Workers, opposing nuclear power and nuclear weapons, fighting racism and modern slavery, confronting poverty. He sees his mission as helping educate young people and the larger citizenry to learn lessons from democratic struggles in the past to empower our citizenship today and tomorrow. He is currently helping organize the Four Girls Jubilee, local commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham church bombing to take place on Sept. 15, 2013.

For more information about “We Will Stand Here Till We Die,” to purchase a copy (print or Kindle e-book), or to learn more about the Four Girls Jubilee commemorations, please visit StewartBurnsHistory.com/.

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