Civil Rights for Beginners – Paul Von Blum.

Yesterday I finished up the book Civil Rights for Beginners by Paul Von Blum and overall I really liked the book. Most of the book is dedicated to the civil rights movement from the 1950s/60s/70s but also ties in the history of black/African American resistance starting from slavery to the present.

Honestly, I learned more from this book about the civil rights movement and the history/context behind it than in any US history class I’ve taken. Von Blum writes so that the book isn’t like a dry history textbook but rather the interesting history it is. And the book not only highlights more than the civil rights movement but also goes more in depth about it than the March on Washington and “I Have a Dream” speech.

At the end of the book, Von Blum also writes about the impact that the civil rights movement has had on other liberation movements from the 1960s to the present. And while I really liked this focus on other movements, I thought it lacked a certain sense of how the different movements worked together on different issues as well. That and the gay liberation section did not even mention the work done by trans people from the 1960s to the present.

In fact, Von Blum completely erased trans people (especially trans women) from the narrative and not once mentioned women like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson. These two women were critical to the start of the modern gay liberation movement and are consistently erased so I’m severely disappointed to see them yet again left out from a civil rights narrative. And yes you can argue that this book is just civil rights for beginners but including Rivera and Johnson in the narrative should be included at the beginning stages because of the important work and role they’ve played in queer history.

So while this book does provide a lot of important information about US history and the historical context of resistance, it did leave out some important people and information. Ultimately the book does provide many of the missing information not found in some US history classes but it should be in no way be the final solution to learning more.

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