Elizabeth Gritter, assistant professor of history, specializes in teaching United States history and the Civil Rights Movement. On Martin Luther King Jr. day this year, her book “River of Hope: Black Politics and the Memphis Freedom Movement, 1865-1954,” was published by University Press of Kentucky.
Gritter said the book is an outgrowth of her undergraduate honors that she completed at American University in Washington D.C. in 2001.
The book focuses on black voters and advocacy leaders who worked to break down the predominantly white political machine that controlled the electoral process.
While writing her book, Gritter worked alongside famous Civil Rights Leaders such as Julian Bond, who helped to establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Gritter said she invested a lot of time and work into creating this book, all while working on her master and doctoral degrees.
“For my undergraduate honors thesis I traveled to Memphis and conducted oral histories of four leading civil rights figures,” she said. “The oral histories became the basis of my master’s thesis and then I conducted nearly 30 oral histories of civil rights and political figures.”
In addition to having her book published, the manuscript was selected for an edited series with the press.
“I was delighted that Steven Lawson, who is one of the most widely recognized experts on the Civil Rights Movement, solicited my book manuscript for his series,” Gritter said.
Gritter said she is working on a second book that will be a close to a sequel.
“I will focus on the years from 1954 to 1968,” she said. “I will do an edited collection of the oral histories that I have already conducted on civil rights developments during these years.”
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