THIS BRIGHT LIGHT OF OURS: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight is a first-hand, from-the-front-lines report of the ’60s Southern voting rights movement in one of the most resistant counties in one of the most resistant states. This is a must-read account of a less publicized aspect of the Southern civil rights movement – white volunteers risking life and limb to challenge white supremacy at its most brutal.— Julian Bond, Chairman Emeritus, NAACP
Maria Gitin’s lively and candid memoir-history answers the call for a grassroots rather than leader-centered account of the southern struggle against the Jim Crow system. This Bright Light of Ours helps readers understand how millions of black Southerners finally became American citizens.—Clayborne Carson, Martin’s Dream: My Journey and the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Director, Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University
Maria Gitin appropriately describes the book as “a hybrid memoir and collection of first hand-accounts woven around the events of [the summer of 1965 in Wilcox County, Alabama] and reflections on that time by seasoned civil rights veterans looking back over a span of more than forty years.” Gitin uses this unconventional approach to great effect, penning a searing memoir that revolves as much around her personal trials and tribulations as it does around the events that shaped the freedom struggle in Wilcox County in 1965. Gitin provides one of the most nuanced treatments of white involvement in the movement that I have read. She avoids many of the pitfalls that typically mar works treating the subject, most notably devaluing the role of outside organizers while simultaneously overstating the contributions they made.—Hasan Kwame Jeffries, scholar and author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt
Maria Gitin’s book, THIS BRIGHT LIGHT OF OURS, shares important details of experiences of working ⎯ of giving oneself to the country-changing work of the civil rights movement in America which ultimately impacted other countries around the world. The Freedom Struggle in Alabama was seen and heard about around the world. Much credit is given to a select few whose names are often called as having contributed as leaders of this powerful movement. But there would have been no freedom movement ⎯ certainly not of the breadth and scope to which it evolved— had it not been for movement volunteers like Maria Gitin and others she writes about in her book. Because of their giving spirit, their willingness even to suffer, a cruel and unjust system that impacted the lives of all of us was changed.—Dorothy F. Cotton, SCLC Director of Education
This is an important work about a neglected period of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1965 Voting Rights Movement. Gitin clearly communicates her commitment to civil rights and social justice by presenting us with the fresh voices of unheralded community leaders in Wilcox County, AL. It adds wonderful new insight and texture to the story of how courageous Americans transformed their community and the country.—Robert Michael Franklin, President-Emeritus of Morehouse College
With candid, almost innocent precision, she exposes her multi-adventure summer experience which includes: lives of her co-workers and an intimate, historic and present exposé of African Americans in a rural back-water town challenging brutal and cleverly subtle oppression. This book is captivating because it presents so many documented stories about courageous ‘ordinary’ people. – Bob Fitch, photojournalist, SCLC staff photographer
Maria Gitin’s book is a unique blend of her own story and those of the local community with whom she worked in Wilcox County in the exceptionally challenging struggle of the 1960s civil rights movement. Very, very few books offer this kind of retrospective and prospective. Gitin’s love for the people of Wilcox County shines through. The work reinforces an understanding of the courage of those times, the penalties exacted in real human lives and ways, the strength of the Black community, their openness and caring, and a brilliant documentation of how completely segregated the South–at least this corner of the South–remains. These are powerful stories profoundly relevant for our own times. —Bettina Aptheker, Professor Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
The wide and diverse array of voices leaps from the pages of THIS BRIGHT LIGHT OF OURS with stunning force. They are authentic voices, and the stories they share are dramatic, gripping, poignant, uplifting and empowering.
Bernard LaFayette and I worked together in Wilcox. In fact, the first Blacks to attempt to register since the fall of Reconstruction were from Wilcox County. We were early introduced to the violence of Sheriff L Jenkins and a county with more dead folk on the voter rolls than living. I am very proud to see that a Sister is out there telling the story from which at last hopefully soon a legacy of SNCC will emerge, a legacy that our young can use as bread from which to draw sustenance. We desperately need it.
By combining her ‘letters home’ and journal entries with a moving description of what has happened in Wilcox County since the 1965 SCOPE project, Gitin has produced a revealing, thought-provoking account of the civil rights movement in rural Alabama. THIS BRIGHT LIGHT OF OURS raises big questions about the movement’s successes and failures–both on a local and national level–that should not be ignored. This is a powerful book that you will not soon forget. —Scotty E. Kirkland, Curator of History, History Museum of Mobile
As someone who spent time in Wilcox County working on anti-poverty work, I can say with authority, this book rings absolutely true. It is important and must be read.
Your book is powerful written and a wonderful first hand witness of civil rights history unfolding in the lives of us movement kids, in the country and in the world. —Charles A. Bonner, Esq. SNCC field director, civil rights attorney, Author “The Bracelet”
Maria Gitin tells her own story on her own terms, giving readers an honest rendering of one woman’s experience on the front lines of struggle against a deeply entrenched system of racial oppression. Her book is a worthy companion piece to Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi and Ned Cobb’s superb Alabama narrative All God’s Dangers.— Clarence Mohr,Chair, History Department, University of South Alabama
Very few accounts of the experiences of volunteers for the Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project exist. This Bright Light of Ours is an admirable work and and important contribution to our understanding of that time. …This book offers an honest expression of the ongoing cost paid by black and white civil rights workers alike. – excerpt from Southern Journal review by Barbara Harris Combs, University of Mississippi