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The River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC

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Among histories of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, there are few personal narratives better than this one. Besides being an insider's account of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), it is an eyewitness report of the strategies and the conflicts in the crucial battle zones as the fight for racial justice raged across the South. T Among histories of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, there are few personal narratives better than this one. Besides being an insider's account of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), it is an eyewitness report of the strategies and the conflicts in the crucial battle zones as the fight for racial justice raged across the South. This memoir by Cleveland Sellers, a SNCC volunteer, traces his zealous commitment to activism from the time of the sit-ins, demonstrations, and freedom rides in the early '60s. In a narrative encompassing the Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964), the historic march in Selma, the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and the murders of civil rights activists in Mississippi, he recounts the turbulent history of SNCC and tells the powerful story of his own no-return dedication to the cause of civil rights and social change. The River of No Return is acclaimed as a book that has become a standard text for those wishing to perceive the civil rights struggle from within the ranks of one of its key organizations and to note the divisive history of the movement as groups striving for common goals were embroiled in conflict and controversy.


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Among histories of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, there are few personal narratives better than this one. Besides being an insider's account of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), it is an eyewitness report of the strategies and the conflicts in the crucial battle zones as the fight for racial justice raged across the South. T Among histories of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, there are few personal narratives better than this one. Besides being an insider's account of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), it is an eyewitness report of the strategies and the conflicts in the crucial battle zones as the fight for racial justice raged across the South. This memoir by Cleveland Sellers, a SNCC volunteer, traces his zealous commitment to activism from the time of the sit-ins, demonstrations, and freedom rides in the early '60s. In a narrative encompassing the Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964), the historic march in Selma, the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and the murders of civil rights activists in Mississippi, he recounts the turbulent history of SNCC and tells the powerful story of his own no-return dedication to the cause of civil rights and social change. The River of No Return is acclaimed as a book that has become a standard text for those wishing to perceive the civil rights struggle from within the ranks of one of its key organizations and to note the divisive history of the movement as groups striving for common goals were embroiled in conflict and controversy.

30 review for The River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC

  1. 5 out of 5

    Helga Cohen

    The River of No Return is about the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. It is the personal memoir of an insider, an eyewitness, who was in the midst of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He describes his activism from the time of the sit-ins, demonstrations, and freedom rides in the early ‘60’s. He recounts The Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964), the historic march in Selma, the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and the murders of civil righ The River of No Return is about the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. It is the personal memoir of an insider, an eyewitness, who was in the midst of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He describes his activism from the time of the sit-ins, demonstrations, and freedom rides in the early ‘60’s. He recounts The Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964), the historic march in Selma, the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and the murders of civil rights activists. He explains in a most interesting way the history of the SNCC and his dedication to the cause of civil rights and social change. Cleveland Sellers is from my state of SC and so I was enthralled to listen to him speak about his days in the movement and autograph my book. And I have also had the joy to meet his attorney son, Bakkari Sellers who lives in my city and is quite visible in the DNC and on television. The River of No Return is an acclaimed book and worth reading to understand and perceive the civil rights struggle as seen through the eyes of an activist

  2. 4 out of 5

    bianca guerrero

    Super interesting book — gets into the divisions between different black organizing institutions during the civil rights movement and really emphasizes the degree of pure violence really young black organizers faced. I knew/understood on some level that people were threatened, beaten, and demoralized by white people and state forces in the civil rights movement but the first person account detailed in this book made it more real than any other text has. This book is pretty much all about SNCC. H Super interesting book — gets into the divisions between different black organizing institutions during the civil rights movement and really emphasizes the degree of pure violence really young black organizers faced. I knew/understood on some level that people were threatened, beaten, and demoralized by white people and state forces in the civil rights movement but the first person account detailed in this book made it more real than any other text has. This book is pretty much all about SNCC. How to started, how it struggled and failed, how it compared to and fought with the NAACP and eventually the SCLC. In the last few chapters it gets into SNCC’s relationship to Black Power ideologies and eventually, the Blank Panthers. It sheds light on how John Lewis was viewed by his young black peers and the rationale (or lack thereof) behind SNCC’s organizing projects. The book is talks directly to the tensions that grew overtime between young and older black Americans, and black and white organizers within SNCC. The downsides of the book are not surprising: women are fairly invisible in the book, except for 2-3 organizers that are described first and foremost by their looks. Men are consistently described as frustrated, while women chapter after chapter are described as hysterical. MLK and the men leading SNCC are all described at length, while other women are basically invisible. The author also writes about physically lashing out on his wife out of rage at another man’s actions. Another failing of the book is that it really centers the organizers and dwells very, very little on what was learned from the Black people SNCC organized. I learned a lot about the organization and almost nothing about the communities it organized which was a bummer. In my opinion, too much time was spent on MLK and not enough on other prominent civil rights organizers like Bayard Rustin, Fannie Lou Hammer, or Ella Baker. Lastly, there is almost too much detail in this book for it be be believable — the language is too flowery. Sellers gives pretty detailed descriptions that I had to take with a grain of salt. Over all, I enjoyed the book and learned a lot from it. I’d recommend to anyone interested in learning about the things I highlighted up top. It’s a relatively short, pretty digestible book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marion

    #2 of the Sellers family trifecta. First, Bakari’s The Vanishing Country, then this memoir by his father from 1973 then next up “Outside Agitator.” An intense history of the civil rights struggle in the 1960s culminating in the Orangeburg Massacre. 5 stars for his mighty lifelong struggle for fair and just treatment.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Avery

    This book was very informative. It introduced me to a lot of figures we don’t usually focus on in school. I’d be interested in reading from the perspective of someone in SCLC or another organization since SNCC often had conflicting ideas and approaches to things during the civil rights movement.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    This was a really great book I read for a civil rights movement class. It gives a personal account of the movement from the perspective of a SNCC worker, which I think added a lot to it. Would definitely recommend!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    One word: hypnotizing. I am not going to give a wordy review. All I will say is just read this memoir.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    SO fascinating. One of my textbooks for my Civil Rights class. It was amazing what those students went through. My teacher pointed out the hypocrisy of the organization towards the end of the movement- People were calling it the Non-Student Violent Uncoordinated Committee (which is kind of funny.) It was kind of interesting to see the psychological strain that all the members felt around the middle of the 60s. Some people were really falling apart, and working far too hard. One of the memorable SO fascinating. One of my textbooks for my Civil Rights class. It was amazing what those students went through. My teacher pointed out the hypocrisy of the organization towards the end of the movement- People were calling it the Non-Student Violent Uncoordinated Committee (which is kind of funny.) It was kind of interesting to see the psychological strain that all the members felt around the middle of the 60s. Some people were really falling apart, and working far too hard. One of the memorable parts of the book was when Cleveland Sellers beat up his girlfriend, we talked about that in class for a long time. And seeing the reasons for the split in the group was really interesting, and also a little sad. It was tough to read at parts, but very important.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Nicole

    Cleveland Sellers is from my home state of South Carolina, and I had the pleasure of getting to know his daughter Nosizwe while we were both medical students at MUSC. Nosizwe is also my sorority sister. Well I didn't realize the impact her Dad had on the course of the civil rights movement until she posted a picture of him meeting her as a baby for the first time while he was imprisoned for his activist involvement surrounding the Orangeburg Massacres. Nosizwe was kind enough to have her Dad aut Cleveland Sellers is from my home state of South Carolina, and I had the pleasure of getting to know his daughter Nosizwe while we were both medical students at MUSC. Nosizwe is also my sorority sister. Well I didn't realize the impact her Dad had on the course of the civil rights movement until she posted a picture of him meeting her as a baby for the first time while he was imprisoned for his activist involvement surrounding the Orangeburg Massacres. Nosizwe was kind enough to have her Dad autograph a copy of the book for me!

  9. 4 out of 5

    10thumbs

    Heroic, horrowing look at Sellers work as a leader in SNCC — a group I'd argue may be one of America's greatest legacies. Really enjoyed his analysis of the organizing these brave women and men did in the South in the 1960s and the openness with which he talked about how that thinking changed over time.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Prendergast

    Interesting story from the point of view of Cleveland Sellers during the civil rights movement. Cleveland was a member of the SNCC, and tells his story of the movement through the eyes of a younger, more radical paradigm.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    had to read it for a class and ended up loving it

  12. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    A very different view of the civil rights movement. If you're looking for praise of MLK and black unity, you won't find it in this book. Presents a rather complicated view of SNCC.

  13. 4 out of 5

    sawyer

    Clevelan Sellers was coming to give a speach on MLK Jr. day and so I read a chunk of his book to have some more background understanding. Very interesting stuff.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ian O'Day

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott Browne

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brice Barnitz

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jess Kennedy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Craig Saddlemire

  24. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary Shelley Reid

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

  28. 5 out of 5

    Davelybob

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tricia

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fitz

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