Virginia Foster Durr was a monumental champion for civil rights. A white southerner who returned to Alabama in 1951 after twenty years in Washington, she was horrified to revisit the racism of her childhood. In her struggle to understand the South and battle isolation, she wrote hundreds of letters–humorous, sharp and observant–to her friends up north, among them Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, Hugo Black and C. Vann Woodward.
With a keen intellect and an insatiable appetite for justice, Durr wrote from the front lines of the sit-ins, freedom rides and student protests. She was a member of the NAACP and a long-time friend of Rosa Parks, accompanying Parks home from jail the night of her arrest. As one of the few white supporters of the Montgomery bus boycott, Durr lived on the margins of that city’s black and white communities, her home a popular gathering place from government officials, journalists and young activists.
Published on the 100th anniversary of Durr’s birth, her letters offer a window onto a society in turmoil, chronicling the events that transformed the South and the nation. Her writing adds a distinctive glimpse into the day-to-day battles for racial justice at a pivotal moment in American history.
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