Warren Moise’s “The Class of ’71”

My college roommate and later housemate Warren Moise has written an extraordinary account of the desegregation of Sumter High School in 1971. He’s given me permission to post here the congratulatory letter I sent him this morning upon finishing the book.

You can purchase it here.

Dear Warren,

Wow, man. I knew that The Class of ’71 was going to be good, but I had no idea that by the end of the book I would consider it a brilliant tour de force.[1]

The weaving of personal anecdote with impeccably researched history produces a well-paced narrative. What we have here is not only a history of desegregation in Sumter, but also a mini history of the town itself, including a vivid snapshot of the transitional year of ’71. I mean, man, your compression of historical background is beyond remarkable, whether you’re cataloguing with precision the horrors of Abe Stern’s family’s journey from ghetto to concentration camps or the series of civil law cases that ultimately led to desegregation.  I loved the mini biographies of historical figures as well. Moreover, you do a masterful job of blending second-sourced details of the segregation with your personal memories of those distant days. You compress a helluva lot in 162 pages. 

Furthermore, your account is admirably nuanced. I suspect that most younger folks don’t realize that many Blacks resented integration, hated the idea of losing their traditions, their autonomy.[2] I admire that you don’t whitewash (regrettable verb choice) such paragons as Thurgood Marshall or Judge Waring, but even as you criticize their foibles, you also laud their attributes. In short, The Class of ’71 is fair and well-balanced, non-polemical historical take on a situation fraught with internecine emotion. 

Your personal anecdotes humanize events, bring to life that we’re talking about human beings here, not abstractions, and you balance well, I think, stories of both Whites and Blacks.  Your friends and peers are brought to life with brisk physical descriptions and dramatizations. Whether you’re talking about athletics, your band, or adolescent love, your humility is ever-present. In addition, the personal reminiscences provide respite from the heavier portions. 

I’ll end this paean with a note on style. I’m by training a critical reader when it comes to diction, syntax, and fluidity. I think I can count on one hand stylistic changes I would have made. I mean what’s not to like about sentences like these: “It was as if the 1960s were burning rubber in a Chevelle V-8 Super Sport on Highway 15 leaving town toward Paxville. At the same moment, the 1970s were rollin’ into town on Highway 15 North inside a Volkswagen van painted with slogans of peace, love, and daises.”

Bravo, my friend![3] It’s truly an honor to know and to have known you, and I hope the book gets the attention it deserves. 

Let’s get together one of these days.

All the best,

Rusty

__________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Pardon the redundancy.

[2] Gamecock High, by the way, was much more liberal than Summerville High, where we kept both our mascot and school colors

[3 And thanks for dropping my name on page 148.

Warren and yours truly circa 1972

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