The Hands of Peace: A Holo­caust Survivor’s Fight for Civ­il Rights in the Amer­i­can South

Mar­i­one Ingram

  • Review
By – January 18, 2016

As a Holo­caust sur­vivor who immi­grat­ed to the Unit­ed States after the war, Mar­i­one Ingram is indig­nant about dis­crim­i­na­tion in this coun­try. Her book, The Hands of Peace, traces her jour­ney from per­se­cut­ed Jew in Ger­many through her par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Civ­il Rights move­ment to her present-day cri­tique. Her stark descrip­tion of dis­crim­i­na­tion in 1950s New York City has a refresh­ing direct­ness, as she pars­es the ugly facts of the racial divide through see­ing her qual­i­fied black cowork­er, Joan, held back pro­fes­sion­al­ly because of her race and face dis­crim­i­na­tion in social sit­u­a­tions and when she and Ingram try to rent an apart­ment togeth­er. As a child of a Jew­ish moth­er and gen­tile father, Ingram’s sole con­nec­tion to Judaism seems to be expe­ri­enc­ing anti-Semi­tism in Ger­many. She does not spell out the details of her years dur­ing the Holo­caust, but briefly describes how she and her moth­er went into hid­ing, sep­a­rat­ed from her father. After the war she stayed in Ger­many with her father and was the butt of ex-Nazi teach­ers’ and class­mates’ ire. The sting of per­son­al dis­crim­i­na­tion par­al­lels her dis­gust with seg­re­ga­tion and insti­tu­tion­al­ized racism in the Unit­ed States, and moti­vates her to work to end it. The Hands of Peace describes her efforts in the 1950s, 60s, and beyond. Ingram mar­ried a South­ern gen­tile and made her home in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Ingram’s joie de vivre and innate sense of jus­tice shines. When an old-school South­ern lady gives Ingram an icy look when a black friend accom­pa­nies her to her cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mo­ny, Ingram dis­miss­es the old bid­dy pleas­ant­ly. Ingram describes the neces­si­ty of leav­ing her young son with her hus­band while work­ing in a Free­dom School in Mis­sis­sip­pi. She depicts har­row­ing brush­es with the Klan but also the Free­dom high” par­tic­i­pants expe­ri­enced teach­ing stu­dents hun­gry for edu­ca­tion. Ingram con­tin­ued her fight against hate back in D.C. Many Jews par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Civ­il Rights move­ment, influ­enced by the fresh wound of the Holo­caust, ear­li­er pogroms, and every­day dis­crim­i­na­tion. Ingram’s expe­ri­ence is unique in that she faced that hate first­hand. Read­ers can take her sto­ry as a play­book on activism. Ingram inter­act­ed with and advo­cat­ed for the rights of minori­ties, opened her house to and befriend­ed peo­ple who do not look like her, attend­ed protests, and went to meet­ings to express her desire for change. Ingram’s take on hate in Amer­i­ca is fresh and direct. Even when the Black Pow­er move­ment gave white and Jew­ish activists the cold shoul­der, Ingram stayed involved. Her return to Mis­sis­sip­pi 50 years lat­er as a vet­er­an of the move­ment describes the progress and remain­ing problems.

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