The Shadows of Youth

The Remarkable Journey of the Civil Rights Generation


Through the lives of Diane Nash, Stokely Carmichael, Bob Moses, Bob Zellner, Julian Bond, Marion Barry, John Lewis, and their contemporaries, The Shadows of Youth provides a carefully woven group biography of the activists who—under the banner of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—challenged the way Americans think about civil rights, politics, and moral obligation in an unjust democracy. A wealth of original sources and oral interviews allows the historian Andrew B. Lewis to recover the sweeping narrative of the civil rights movement, from its origins in the youth culture of the 1950s to the near present.

The teenagers who spontaneously launched sit-ins across the South in the summer of 1960 became the SNCC activists and veterans without whom the civil rights movement could not have succeeded. The Shadows of Youth replaces a story centered on the achievements of Martin Luther King Jr. with one that unearths the cultural currents that turned a disparate group of young adults into, in Nash's term, skilled freedom fighters. Their dedication to radical democratic possibility was transformative. In the trajectory of their lives, from teenager to adult, is visible the entire arc of the most decisive era of the American civil rights movement, and The Shadows of Youth for the first time establishes the centrality of their achievement in the movement's accomplishments.

  • Farrar, Straus and Giroux; October 2009
  • ISBN 9781429935746
  • Read online, or download in secure EPUB format
  • Title: The Shadows of Youth
  • Author: Andrew B. Lewis
  • Imprint: Hill and Wang

In The Press

The Shadows of Youth is a kind of group biography of this generation of young men and women such as John Lewis, Julian Bond, Diane Nash and Stokely Carmichael. Lewis relies on already-published histories of the movement, but he knows how to tell a compelling story, and he is able to take these figures and render them in their full, three-dimensional complexity. The result is a taut, compact history of the civil rights movement seen from the perspective of a particular generation of its leadership.” —Michael A. Elliott, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Lewis takes on this tumultuous journey in a fact-based account of the movement's moral and political dilemmas . . . His view of the student movement working in the shadow of the iconic Martin Luther King is both insightful and alarming . . . The extent of Lewis's research makes this an excellent tool and especially fertile ground for screenwriters, politicians, and anyone interested in this polarizing period of history.” —Sheli Ellsworth, San Francisco Book Review

The Shadows of Youth brings to life once again the nation-transforming '60s. It does so from the perspective of intelligent, passionate black youths. In a clear, measured, and highly readable style, Lewis' book pays tribute to the courage of those students who began their march for freedom on that 1960 Easter weekend in Raleigh.” —William F. Powers, The Raleigh News and Observer

The Shadows of Youth does something that no other book on the civil rights movement has done. Andrew B. Lewis reminds us that the legendary activists of SNCC were not merely civil rights shock troops, activist intellectuals, or democratic idealists; they were also baby boomers, and their story needs to be read in light of the peculiar sturm und drang of America's post–World War II youth culture.” —Joseph Crespino, author of In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution

“With deep admiration and rigorous scholarship, historian Lewis revisits the ‘ragtag band' of young men and women who formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee…With this eloquent book, he offers a deserved tribute.” —Publishers Weekly

“Historian Lewis offers an engaging look at some of the major figures in the budding civil rights Movement” —Vanessa Bush, Booklist

About The Author

Andrew B. Lewis teaches history at Wesleyan University. His books include Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table: A Documentary History of the Civil Rights Movement, with Julian Bond.