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'We Shall Overcome': Reliving the Civil Rights Era

History demonstrates that from great pain often comes great progress -- an axiom proven true during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and '60s, when America confronted an ugly heritage of racism.

One of the defining moments of the movement occurred 49 years ago Wednesday. On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama's capital -- a simple act of defiance that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and thrust the debate over equal rights for all races into the national spotlight.

Using words, archive photos and rare recordings, veteran anthologist Herb Boyd has created a "living history" chronicling American's civil rights movement with his new book We Shall Overcome: The History of the Civil Rights Movement As It Happened. He talks with NPR's Tavis Smiley about his book, which comes with two audio CDs narrated by longtime activists and actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

Their words and the words of the top players in the fight -- President John F. Kennedy, Gov. George Wallace, Malcolm X and many others -- give an up-close view of a grass roots movement for social justice and equality that grew stronger in the face of adversity.

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