SU alumnus Sugarman to read from noted book on civil rights struggle in lecture at Bird Library
Tracy Sugarman ’43, author of “We Had Sneakers, They Had Guns: The Kids Who Fought for Civil Rights in Mississippi” (Syracuse University Press, 2009), will speak and read excerpts from his book on Wednesday, March 24, at 6 p.m. in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons in E.S. Bird Library. In addition, Syracuse University students from the Verbal Blend poetry project will be on hand to recite poems they have created from chapters in Sugarman’s book.
Earlier in the day, Sugarman, a graduate of Syracuse’s Nottingham High School, as well as SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, will speak to an AP U.S. history class at Nottingham.
Sugarman is a nationally recognized illustrator whose art has appeared in numerous magazines and books, as well as featured on programs on ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS. His collection of art from World War II has been acquired by the Library of Congress.
As an illustrator and journalist, Sugarman covered the nearly 1,000 student volunteers who traveled to Mississippi during the 1964 Freedom Summer to assist black citizens in the South to register to vote. He interviewed these activists, along with local civil rights leaders and black and white residents not directly involved in the movement, and drew the people and events that made the summer one of the most heroic chapters in America’s long march toward racial justice.
In “We Had Sneakers, They Had Guns,” Sugarman chronicles the sacrifices, tragedies and triumphs of that unprecedented moment in U.S. history. Two white students and one black student were slain in the struggle, many were beaten and hundreds arrested, and churches and homes were burned to the ground by the opponents of equality. Yet the example of Freedom Summer—whites united with heroic black Mississippians to challenge segregation—resonated across the nation. Congress was finally moved to pass the civil rights legislation that enfranchised the millions of black Americans who had been waiting for equal rights for a century.
Blending oral history with memoir, “We Had Sneakers, They Had Guns” draws the reader into the lives of Sugarman’s subjects, showing the passion and naiveté of the volunteers, the bravery of the civil rights leaders, and the candid, sometimes troubling reactions of the black and white Delta residents.