I may have mentioned to y'all that last year I had the incredibly good fortune to get to help edit a book. Line by line, chapter by chapter. Boy was I blissed out and in my element. And what a book it was.
A memoir, mostly written but shelved years and years ago, by the dear man (if you've followed Em-i-lis for years now you might remember The Grands) for whom I used to cook dinner twice weekly. He and his wife were so remarkable in so many ways, and it was an absolute pleasure, honor really, to get to bring them good meals.
Only after he died last March did I find out that he was a famed journalist, a bureau chief for United Press International and later for The New York Times. That he covered the Civil Rights movement for more than a decade, repeatedly interviewing Dr. King and Medgar Evers and Robert Kennedy. That he was in Birmingham when the church was bombed and that that very evening he spoke to the slain girls' parents. That he was in Selma when marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and run out of St. Augustine by Klansmen. That he covered Kennedy's assassination and later wrote the "Nixon Resigns" headline and cover story for the Times and that he was a Pulitzer finalist. That he was a Tennessee boy raised by segregationist parents but came to see and believe that their ideology was wrong.
And only after he died did I learn that his daughter, Anne, one of my dear friends, had found his unfinished memoir a few years back and pleaded/love-forced him to finish it. They did so together and just before he passed, they found that the University Press of Mississippi wanted to publish it.
Anne and I saw each other around that time, and she mentioned their work.
"If ever you'd like another set of eyes on it, I'd love to read it," I offered.
"Oh yes," she said, "That would be great."
It was only later that I blushed about what must have seemed such a brazen gesture. She, like her father, is a professional journalist, a journalism professor for goodness sakes. But share the manuscript she did, and I tore through it, printing and marking each page with my trusty pen.
Deep South Dispatch: Memoir of a Civil Rights Journalist came out last week. The book launch was Wednesday night, and I was thrilled to attend. I continue to be dumbstruck that I was listed in the acknowledgments. Listening to the ways friends, family, journalistic luminaries, and students described Mr. Herbers' impact on them was inspiring. One can live quietly but with such presence, letting their lives speak profoundly but not overtly publicly. This seems to be an increasingly lost art these days, and I feel it is humanity's loss.
In any case, I do hope you'll read this significant, timely, meaningful memoir. Not because I had anything to do with it but because it is instructive in the humblest, loveliest, most sincere of ways.
If you need any additional motivation, watch this: Deep South Dispatch trailer.
And, if you are remotely skeptical about why we need to continue talking about race and inequality head on, consider reading/watching these recent (as in, in the last week) headlines: