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Jerry Mitchell

Review: Race Against Time


Many years ago, I entered bootcamp unsure and uncertain of what was to come. I knew it would be both a physical and mental challenge. The one thing I was completely unprepared to experience? Somebody was in my face screaming almost nonstop for eight solid weeks.

Les Ferguson Jr.

Les Ferguson Jr.

Thankfully, at this stage of life, things are a bit calmer—there is still chaos, but not like that of bootcamp. And like me during those eight weeks of military training, I suspect you have started reading this book review with no expectation of a madman drill inspector screaming in your ear.

However, with every fiber of my being and in my best Drill Inspector imitation, I want to grab you by the lapels (non-violently, of course) and scream at you eyeball-to-eyeball, nose-to-nose, “Read this book. Read it now. Read it fast. Read it slow. Just read this book!”

Here’s a disclaimer of sorts: I count the author a friend. I value his advice and enjoy his company. And because I believe in what he does, I was predisposed to appreciate his work. But you should also know that my predisposition takes nothing away from the visceral punch of what he has written.

And it is a punch. I don’t care what kind you want to envision—whether a gut punch, face punch, or throat punch, the history Jerry writes about is real, compelling, and extraordinarily painful. But it is a history that needs to be revisited time and time again.

Race Against Time” is a history book that reads like a novel. Without a scintilla of fiction, this book brings a horrific past into the present.

As part of his journalism career in Jackson, Mississippi with the Clarion-Ledger newspaper, Jerry spent years researching/ delving into some of Mississippi’s most heinous civil rights tragedies. And tragedies they were, innocent lives snuffed out by a monstrous racism embodied by people, some in positions of great power and influence. 

Race Against Time tells the stories of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—civil rights workers murdered in Philadelphia, MS in 1964 and immortalized in the movie Mississippi Burning. 

You will read about Medgar Evers, the first full-time field secretary for Mississippi’s branch of the NAACP, and his cowardly murder in June 1963—shot down in his own driveway in Jackson, MS. 

You will also find the story of Vernon Dahmer, Sr. an outspoken activist for African American voting rights who succumbed from his injuries after his grocery store, home and family were fire-bombed on January 10, 1966.

And then there are four girls, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Denise McNair—three fourteen-year old’s and one eleven-year old—killed by a bomb placed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963. 

In all four hard-to-fathom stories, you will read of the exceedingly difficult and intrepid work of justice this investigative reporter did in getting the cases reopened, evidence procured, defendants prosecuted, and most importantly, convicted. In each case, you will experience how deeply racism was embedded in both society as well as local, state, and federal agencies. 

This is an important work of history—it is a reflection of the present—it is a hope for the future.

It is a book that deserves to be read.

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Filed under: Les Ferguson Race Against Time Review Reviews

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