Chronicle of The Civil Rights Era

In February, a month in which the contributions and struggles of African-Americans are remembered, a new book titled "Civil Rights Chronicle: The African-American Struggle for Freedom" gives a comprehensive and illustrated account of African-American history from the beginning of the slave trade to the present.

The foreword was written by Myrlie Evers-Williams, a former chairwoman of the NAACP (1995-1998) and the widow of Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist who was slain in front of his home in Jackson, Miss., in 1963.

The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith notes it is sad that most people do not know who Medgar Evers was, which is precisely why Evers-Williams says she was excited to participate in the book.

She says, "It's a tragedy, really, that we find so many people who are unaware of that history and particularly African Americans, particularly young people, with whom I speak and they say, 'Why? Why should I be interested in that?' And it's our responsibility to be able to give them the background, that history, to help them relate it to today and to the future. This book also speaks to anyone who has any interest whatsoever in human rights, in civil rights that helped to shape this country."

Back in the '60s, Evers was speaking out for integration in Mississippi's businesses. But that stand cost his life. Evers-Williams explains, "You simply did not challenge a system like that, alone almost, and expect to get through unscathed by that. Medgar was very dedicated to what he had to do. He didn't want to be a martyr, but he was a pioneer in that movement and he served to make changes. And I think my story, along with so many other very vivid stories helped to bring this book alive."

It begins in the 1400s when slave trading began and continues through to the present. The main focus is on 1940-1975, the main period of the American civil rights movement.

Evers-Williams says, "I'm a believer that those of us who were involved in the struggle during the period of the '40s - of course, we weren't there at that time - through the '70s, which is a major focus of this book, in the struggles, in the life adventures there, we were so glad when we finally had some successes. We took a seat back and said, 'Whew! It's over. We've done it.' We forgot or perhaps we were battle-fatigued, and did not pass on to the next generation, the importance of what we have been through. And young people today just don't remember. I often thought that it was just the civil rights movement that people did not remember, or young people chose not to, a large number. Then I read an article someplace that compared young people who remembered who John F. Kennedy was vs. those who didn't, who could not make that historical connection. Somewhere we have got to put forth to our young people that that history is so critically important. Help them to make that distance between what is and what the future will be. And 'Civil Rights Chronicle' does that in an absolutely marvelous way."

The 448-page-book, she notes, has 900 illustrations, which includes photos, paintings, book covers, movie posters, pamphlets and editorial cartoons.