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.