Description

In his fifty-year career as an award-winning journalist, CNN commentator, and author of multiple books, Rick Allen has had a front-row seat on dramatic change in race relations in America. In this collection of eighteen essays, he explores his ongoing efforts to understand the struggle of black and white Americans to navigate a shared history at once wicked and intimate, full of love and hate, as they seek to level an uneven playing field. Allen examines issues from the era of Reconstruction through Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, the rhythms of resistance and progress, into today’s contentious debates over redlining, reparations, and critical race theory.

Starting as a reporter with the Atlanta Constitution in 1972, Allen got to know and befriend legendary black political figures including Julian Bond, John Lewis, Andy Young, Hosea Williams, Maynard Jackson, Jesse Jackson, and Daddy King, the father of Martin Luther King, Jr. He also encountered ardent white segregationists, some of whom saw the light and others who took their racism to the grave. Drawing on his experience covering politics, he examines presidents from LBJ and Jimmy Carter to Obama and Trump. He explores the symbolism of Confederate flags, the controversy over Uncle Remus, the election of Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, and the tragic case of the Atlanta Child Murders. He has had first-hand encounters with white supremacy and violent black protest alike.

Throughout his essays, Allen is candid about his own shortcomings as a white native Northerner learning gradually about the complexities of race in his adoptive South. The essays highlight his continuing journey toward understanding the forces that both hinder and promote equality and harmony between the races.

About the author(s)

Frederick Allen was an award-winning reporter and political columnist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1972 to 1987, when he joined CNN as chief analyst and commentator covering the 1988 presidential contest. His essays for the program “Inside Politics” earned CNN a Cable Ace Award, and Allen was cited as best political analyst by the editors of The Hotline.

Allen was a founding panelist on the “Georgia Gang,” a public affairs show on Atlanta television since 1982.

He is the author of three books. His history of the Coca-Cola Company, Secret Formula, was published by HarperCollins in 1994 and has been translated into seven languages. Atlanta Rising, a history of modern Atlanta, was published by Longstreet in 1996 and is taught at several colleges. A Decent, Orderly Lynching, Allen’s account of the vigilantes of Montana, was published in 2004 by University of Oklahoma Press. His research into vigilante symbolism was cited by the Western History Association.

Allen graduated from Phillips Academy (Andover) and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He and his wife, Linda, live in Atlanta and Cashiers, North Carolina.

Reviews

“Rick Allen’s book is a must-read for anyone intrigued—or anguished—by our nation’s struggle to come to terms with race over the past half-century. Drawing on his experience as a journalist, including a stint as CNN’s lead political commentator, and as a historian, Allen writes with unflinching candor of the changes he has witnessed, in himself as well as society at large, and shows we’ve come a long way . . . with a long way yet to go.”

Tom Johnson, former president of CNN

“Rick Allen is more than a keen journalistic observer of Black–White politics in Atlanta and the New South. A conscientious student of race and the region, here he shares his own intimate journey, freely acknowledging personal limitations, when he’s been wrong, and when and why his views have changed. So Rick Allen’s reckoning with race is insightful, at times unsparing, and throughout a candid, often courageous self-reflection that all of us who care about this subject will benefit from reading.”

Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund

“With insight and clarity, Rick Allen has written a memoir that details his fifty years probing the historical and emotional impact of racism on Black Americans (and its toll on White Americans as well). What a task he undertakes! That he succeeds without moralizing—or denying his own complicity rooted in White privilege—is a tribute to his intellectual honesty and dogged reporting skills. Allen’s book, with truths that will prick our consciences, should be revelatory to any citizen seeking amity and détente between the races. It is a book I wish I had written.”

Wyche Fowler, member of Congress, 1977–1993

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