323: We Shall Not Be Moved by M. J. O’Brien

by Gerard


323.1196073076251: O’Brien, M.J. We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired. Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 2013. 286 pp. ISBN 978-1-6170-3743-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 320: Political science
  • 323: Civil and political rights
  • 323.1: Civil and political rights of nondominant groups
  • 323.11: Ethnic and national groups
  • +96073: African-Americans
  • +076251: Hinds County, Mississippi (City of Jackson)

On May 28, 1963, a group of young Americans walked up to a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi and sat down. Any other day, this would have been no big deal, but this was a whites-only counter and they were not all white. In Hinds County, Mississippi, this was seen as an affront to their way of life. The Jim Crow laws were deeply ensconced in the culture, and many people thought “separate but equal” was a legitimate system that allowed for all parties to thrive with dignity. But this was not the case. M.J. O’Brien’s We Shall Not Be Moved centers around this sit-in and chronicles the civil rights movement from the perspective of those on the ground.

This book centers around a pivotal image of the civil rights movement. The three visible sit-in participants—John Salter (Native American), Joan Trumpauer (a white civil liberties activist), and Anne Moody (an African-American)—are seen sitting, waiting to be treated as equals. They are covered with ketchup, salt, sugar, mustard, and possibly blood. The white crowd surrounds them, taunting them, waiting for one of them to give them an excuse for a fight. Outside the frame, there are others at the counter under considerably more duress. The image oozes with gravitas, tension, and sadness.


O’Brien’s narrative takes us through the lives of those involved—on both sides of the issue—and how their environment and attitudes led them to the sit-in. The famed civil rights lawyer Medgar Evers, who became the NAACP field secretary for Mississippi, plays a pivotal role. From the formation of early grassroots movements to his assassination just 38 days after the sit-in, his leadership set the tone for the issue. It is also interesting to see that O’Brien also includes perspectives of policemen on duty in Jackson during the time.

What struck me most was the pure animosity that many in the South had towards integration. While I find it hard to fathom, there are still pockets on the planet where one group of people considers another group of people unworthy of basic respect, fairness, and rights. O’Brien’s book is both riveting and shameful, which is understandably the only way a book about the civil rights movement can be. I enjoyed this one, but I’m not in a hurry to read about this era again. If you’re a student of civil rights or political science, then pick this one up.