Knocking Down Barriers

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Publication Date
September 2005
Page Count
344 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Knocking Down Barriers

My Fight for Black America
Truman K. Gibson, Jr. with Steve Huntley

Recipient of 2007 The Hyde Park Historical Society Paul Cornell Award
2006 Illinois Winner, State Historical Society Book Award-Certificate of Excellence

Sixty years ago, when Truman Gibson reported for duty at the War Department, Washington, D.C. was a southern city in its unbending segregation as well as in its steamy summers. Gibson had no illusions, but as someone who'd enjoyed the best of the vibrant black culture of prewar America, he was shocked to find the worst of the Jim Crow South in the nation's capital. What Gibson accomplished as an advocate for African American soldiers-first as a lawyer working for the Secretary of War, then as a member of President Truman's "Black Cabinet"--is a large part of the history of the struggle for civil rights in the American military; and it is a compelling part of the story that Gibson tells in this book, a memoir of a life spent making a difference in the world one step at a time.

A graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, Gibson took his fight for racial justice to the corridors of powers, arguing against restrictive real estate covenants before the U.S. Supreme Court, opposing such iconic figures as Generals Dwight Eisenhower and George C. Marshall in campaigning for the integration of the armed forces, and challenging white control of professional sports by creating a boxing promotion empire that made television history. A firsthand account of the nitty-gritty of twentieth-century race relations in the worlds of law, the military, sports, and entertainment, Gibson's memoir is also an engaging recollection of encounters with the likes of Thurgood Marshall, W. E. B. DuBois, Eleanor Roosevelt, George Patton, Jackie Robinson, and Joe Louis, among others. As a historical record and as an intimate look at a bygone era with all its charms and hardships, the book is an essential chapter in our nation's story.

About the Author

TRUMAN K. GIBSON JR. was the civilian aide to the secretary of war during World War II, a member of two presidential advisory committees, and the president of the International Boxing Club. Gibson was the first African American to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit. He is an attorney in Chicago.

STEVE HUNTLEY is the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times editorial page and a former senior editor at U.S. News and World Report.
"This informative book is a time capsule covering many rich experiences of one man over nine decades. In addition to recounting his participation in the successful struggle to desegregate the armed forces, Mr. Gibson takes the reader along on a grand tour of his interactions with many key figures in the political, military, business, sports, and entertainment worlds of the 20th century." --Jimmy Carter
"Gibson entertains and enlightens in recollecting the living detail of the national capital, the nation itself, and many of its iconic figures in the hard-fought struggle to desegregate. His is an important addition to the historical record. . ." --Library Journal, starred review
"Knocking Down Barriers is a wonderful book ripe with stories and insights that illuminate many of the dark corners of America's struggle for integration and racial justice during the 1930s and 1940s. While this engagingly written memoir explores the intersection of race, sports, entertainment, and law, Gibson's greatest contribution is his recollections of the personalities, debates, and barriers in the battle to integrate the armed forces. Gibson's words help us to better understand the difficulties and the ultimate importance of the successful challenge to a segregated military and how those actions helped create an environment that stimulated and supported the nascent civil rights movement. This is a must-read."
--Lonnie G. Bunch, President, Chicago Historical Society