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The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement

Bob Zellner with Constance Curry

NewSouth Books
$28.95 hardcover
6 x 9
351 pages, black-and-white photos
Julian Bond, foreword
Published in 2008

In his long-awaited memoir, civil rights activist Bob Zellner tells how one white Alabamian joined ranks with the black students who were sitting-in, marching, fighting, and sometimes dying to challenge the Southern “way of life” he had been raised on but rejected.

Even forty years after the movement, the transition from son and grandson of Klansmen to field secretary of SNCC seems quite a journey. In the early 1960s, when Bob Zellner’s professors and classmates at a small church school in Alabama thought he was crazy for even wanting to do research on civil rights, it was nothing short of remarkable.

Reviled by some but admired and revered by many, Bob Zellner describes how he began protesting on behalf of social change and equal rights, and how decades later he still continues to struggle.


“Zellner’s memoir focuses on his experiences as a civil rights activist from 1960 to 1967. He tells a story that is sometimes horrific, always interesting, and ultimately inspirational about a white Southerner’s commitment to racial justice. In the 1960s, Zellner became a member and ultimately a field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and participated in numerous demonstrations attacking racial discrimination. He was arrested, jailed, beaten—often savagely—shot at by police, and almost killed. Yet he remained committed to the cause of racial justice and the organizing needed to achieve it.” —Library Journal, starred review
“The journey white Southerners travel in this riveting memoir, from virulent racism to acceptance of blacks’ civil rights, is as momentous as any in American history . . . A frontline participant in many civil rights battles, Bob Zellner was jailed, beaten, slashed, shot at by police and taken on a terrifying night ride by Klansmen as they debated whether to lynch him. He’s also a canny observer of major figures in the struggle, from SNCC legend Robert Moses to segregationist stalwart George Wallace . . . The result is a testament both to the courage of civil rights activists and to the hatred they overcame; when Zellner survives to see white and black workers come together for a wildcat strike, it seems almost miraculous.” —Publishers Weekly
“I highly recommend this book. It's the best thing I've read all year. If you've not before read about the movement, this is the best place to start—and if you've read a lot about the Movement, you'll be delighted by Zellner's autobiography. He is one of the true living American heroes, and in this memoir he is unfailingly generous to his fellow Movement activists and to the cause they advanced so boldly and against all the institutional forces of American society: Liberty and justice and equality for all.” —Amazon.com reviewer