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Author

"Fred Blackwell’s iconic photograph of the Jackson Woolworth’s sit-in captivated me and inspired me to delve deeper into the story of what happened on that game-changing day in Mississippi movement history."

M.J. O'Brien

It was while visiting the Martin Luther King Center for Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia in 1991 that M. J. O'Brien conceived the work that has become We Shall Not Be Moved. As part of its civil rights display, the King Center showed a photograph of the 1963 Jackson, Mississippi Woolworth's sit-in–a photograph that has become the image used in history books and magazine articles to show what a sit-in was like. O'Brien was captivated by the photograph because at its center was a woman, Joan (Trumpauer) Mulholland, whom he had known for a number of years. For much of that time, Mulholland had been reticent about her civil rights experiences. Seeing the photograph in such an esteemed environment made O'Brien realize that there was much more of a story behind the photograph than Mulholland was letting on. O'Brien was inspired to tell the story of the nine individuals who sat-in that day–May 28, 1963–and to fully explore the grassroots civil rights movement in Jackson that the sit-in sparked to life.

M. J. O'Brien is an independent writer and scholar who lives and works in Fairfax, Virginia. His interest in the civil rights era was sparked as a Catholic seminarian during the late 1960s and further deepened as he studied the nonviolent philosophies of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dorothy Day. He excelled at English and History during his undergraduate pastoral studies at St. Mary's Seminary & University in Catonsville, Maryland, and graduated in 1973. He went on to earn a second bachelor's degree from The American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C. A practicing corporate communications executive for the past 30 years, Mr. O'Brien–along with his wife AllysonMcGill–adopted three children of African-American descent and through that experience has developed a keen interest in race relations in the United States. This is his first book.

 

 

About this book

The photograph that caught this electrifying moment provides the central, unifying image of We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired. It tells the story of the nine courageous individuals who in 1963 took a stand for equality by sitting down together at one of Jackson, Mississippi’s segregated lunch counters and braving
the wrath of an out-of-control mob. What brought those demonstrators—and a cast of
supporting characters—to take that stand? And what happened to them after their moment in
the spotlight faded?

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We Shall Not Be Moved is a labor of love. Primarily created in the late 1990s and finally brought to life through the auspices of the University Press of Mississippi, it is a story of triumph and determination that was captured by the now-iconic Fred Blackwell photograph. Although its publication was delayed (as told in Acknowledgements), timing is everything. The book was supposed to be published in 1999, but for a variety of reasons, it is only reaching a broader public today. And that is as it should be. We are on the cusp of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In (May 28, 1963) and the courageous souls who decided, one-by-one , to sit in at the counter that day are being recognized for their contribution to the overall civil rights struggle.

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