Beaches, Blood, and Ballots: A Black Doctor's Civil Rights Struggle

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Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 227 pages
A frontline memoir from the Biloxi physician who fought to bring civil rights justice to the Mississippi Gulf Coast

This book, the first to focus on the integration of the Gulf Coast, is Dr. Gilbert R. Mason's eyewitness account of harrowing episodes that occurred there during the civil rights movement. Newly opened by court order, documents from the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission's secret files enhance this riveting memoir written by a major civil rights figure in Mississippi. He joined his friends and allies Aaron Henry and the martyred Medgar Evers to combat injustices in one of the nation's most notorious bastions of segregation.

In Mississippi, the civil rights struggle began in May 1959 with "wade-ins". In open and conscious defiance of segregation laws, Mason led nine black Biloxians onto a restricted spot along the twenty-six-mile beach. A year later more wade-ins on beaches reserved for whites set off the bloodiest race riot in the state's history and led the U.S. Justice Department to initiate the first-ever federal court challenge of Mississippi segregationist laws and practices. Simultaneously, Mason and local activists began their work on the state's first school desegregation suit. As the coordinator of the strategy, he faced threats to his life.

Mason's memoir gives readers a documented journey through the daily humiliations that segregation and racism imposed upon the black populace -- upon fathers, mothers, children, laborers, and professionals. This excerpt is from the chapter "Ballots, Beaches, Bullets" and takes place in 1960 at the height of the struggle when victory is close at hand.


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Beginnings I
Preparation for Service
Going Home to Serve
The Beach
The Bloody WadeIn
Harassment Lies and Sovereignty Commission Spies 8
Inclusion Influence and Public Responsibilities

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About the author (2000)

Gilbert R. Mason, MD, was a practicing physician in Biloxi, Mississippi. Although a lifetime Democrat, he served as a public school-desegregation advisor to the Republican administration of President Nixon, as well as a friend, advisor, and appointee of several Mississippi governors.

James Patterson Smith is professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi, Gulf Coast campus. He is the author, with Gilbert Mason, of "Beaches, Blood, and Ballots: A Black Doctor's Civil Rights Struggle", published by the University Press of Mississippi.

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