"The Class of '65: A Student, a Divided Town and the Long Road to Forgiveness" (Encore presentation)

Jan 19, 2016

(Note: This interview originally aired back in June; we are pleased to present it once again on MLK Day.) On this edition of ST, a discussion with the longtime Georgia-based journalist, Jim Auchmutey, who tells us about his book, "The Class of '65: A Student, a Divided Town and the Long Road to Forgiveness." It's a detailed profile of Americus High School, in rural southern Georgia, at a pivotal time in that school's -- and this country's -- history. In particular, Auchmutey depicts the life and times of one Greg Wittkamper, a student at the school who came from a nearby Christian commune that devoutly and publicly (and often quite dangerously) supported racial equality. As was noted of this book by a reviewer for The Associated Press: "Jim Auchmutey, a journalist who worked for nearly three decades at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, expertly tells the story of that student, the Americus community, the larger civil rights struggle, and an unexpected reconciliation decades later.... The reconciliation that follows in Auchmutey's compelling narrative is at times tentative and halting, but also filled with emotional power. And it appears to be still in progress. At the time of the reunion, it included only Wittkamper and his white classmates. The closing section of Auchmutey's book suggests another chapter yet to be written, as blacks and whites together make peace with the past." And further, per The Washington Post: "It's a great story, ably reported...and told with humor and grace.... Heroism is like beauty -- in the eye of the beholder. We rarely behold bravery as singular as Wittkamper's. 'Class of '65' encourages us to see the courage in an act as simple as asking forgiveness in a long-overdue letter."