Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, Bob Moses, John Lewis, Marion Barry, Bob Zellner, Julian Bond, Diane Nash: their lives recall a decade when a small number of idealistic American youths forever changed history. Forcefully written and deeply researched, The Shadows of Youth spans the tumultuous decades from World War II to the present, weaving a collective biography of the young activists who—under the banner of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s—challenged the way Americans thought about civil rights, politics, and moral obligations. And the historians Andrew B. Lewis establishes that it was these young Americans, assuming the central role in defining the civil rights movement, who ensured that it was finally victorious.
The story of American civil rights has too long centered on the achievements of Martin Luther Kind, Jr., and a few familiar events. Drawing on a wealth of original sources and interviews, Lewis shifts the focus to the teenagers who spontaneously launched sit-ins across the South in the summer of 1960. Through the lives of bond, Carmichael, Moses, Lewis, Barry, Zellner, Nash, and their contemporaries, The Shadows of Youth unearths the cultural events that turned a disparate group of young adults into—to use Nash's term—skilled freedom fighters who were critical to the success of the movement. The trajectory of their lives, from their teenage years to adulthood, coincided with the arc of the most decisive era of civil rights. For the first time, this sweeping history establishes the centrality of their achievement to the movement's accomplishments.