Climbing the Rough Side of the Mountain

The Extraordinary Story of Love, Civil Rights, and Labor Activism


The remarkable story of a couple who came together during the civil rights movement and made fighting for equality and civil and workers’ rights their purpose for more than sixty years, overcoming adversity—with the strength of their love and commitment—to bring about meaningful change.

“A chronicle of lives of unwavering dedication. Now in their 80s, labor and civil rights activists Norman and Velma Hill recount more than six decades of struggles, triumphs, and frustrations in their tireless work as ‘crusaders for democracy.’... An inspiring joint memoir.” —Kirkus Reviews

When Velma Murphy was knocked unconscious by a brick thrown by a man from an angry white mob and was carried away by Norman Hill, it was the beginning of a six-decade-long love story and the turmoil, excitement, and struggle for civil rights and labor movements. In Climbing the Rough Side of the Mountain, the Hills reflect upon their more than half a century of fighting to make America realize the best of itself.

Through profound conversations between the two, Velma and Norman Hill share their earliest memories of facing racial segregation in the 1960s, working with Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, and A. Philip Randolph, crossing paths with Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael. They also reveal how they kept white supremacists like David Duke from taking office, organized workers into unions, met with Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and continued to work tirelessly, fighting the good fight and successfully challenging power with truth.

About the author(s)

Norman Hill was the national program director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), staff coordinator for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, staff representative of the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO, and president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute from 1980 to 2004, the longest tenure in the organization’s history. He remains its president emeritus.

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