Ear­li­er this week, Mary Glick­man wrote about a strange inter­view ques­tion. Her most recent book, March­ing to Zion (Open Road Media), is now avail­able. She is blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

Once I start­ed think­ing seri­ous­ly about the sim­i­lar­i­ties in the cul­tur­al nar­ra­tives of African Amer­i­cans and Jews, I thought I had some­thing excit­ing, some­thing new in hand. Then I real­ized my Eure­ka!” moment was more of a Duh.” The com­mon themes of slav­ery and lib­er­a­tion were self-evi­dent. There were dif­fer­ences, of course. Africans were tak­en to the Amer­i­c­as by cru­el force. Jews will­ing­ly went to Egypt to escape famine. They were even invit­ed by mish­pukah. Slav­ery destroyed African fam­i­lies. Apart from an occa­sion of Egypt­ian army infan­ti­cide and at least one Jew­ish mama who sent her baby in a bas­ket down riv­er, Jew­ish fam­i­lies stayed pret­ty much intact. Amer­i­can slaves were forcibly con­vert­ed to Chris­tian­i­ty. Egyp­tians appar­ent­ly didn’t much care who Jews wor­shipped until plague came to town. But bondage is bondage and eman­ci­pa­tion always bloody.

I’m sure that’s why African Amer­i­can spir­i­tu­als, frag­ments of which I use for my titles, are chock full of Moses, the Riv­er Jor­dan, a gung-ho Joshua. Dur­ing the Civ­il Rights Era, Amer­i­can Jews respond­ed to those songs of yearn­ing, remem­ber­ing their own. Up to 60% of the white Free­dom Rid­ers, 70% of the Civ­il Rights attor­neys, and 65% of the vol­un­teers dur­ing Free­dom Sum­mer were Jews. Our com­mu­ni­ties were close, devot­ed, broth­ers-in-arms. And who, at least in the begin­ning, were the gen­er­als of these armies of right­eous­ness? Men of the cloth. African Amer­i­can min­is­ters like Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. and Andrew Young. Amer­i­can rab­bis like Abra­ham Joshua Hes­chel in New York and Per­ry Nuss­baum in Mis­sis­sip­pi. What brave, inspired men! Their con­gre­ga­tions? Depend­ing on the gen­er­a­tion and home­towns of the peo­ple in ques­tion, not so much.

Recent­ly, my nov­els and I were paired at an arts func­tion with fel­low author John Reynolds, whose Civ­il Rights Era mem­oir, The Fight For Free­dom, chron­i­cles his expe­ri­ences as a foot-sol­dier in that move­ment. In 1965, he was an 18-year-old black from Alaba­ma who vol­un­teered with the South­ern Chris­t­ian Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence to reg­is­ter blacks to vote. Soon after, he was appoint­ed a field leader by Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. In the end, he was jailed and/​or beat­en more than twen­ty times.

In those lulls between lit­tle waves of book buy­ers, John and I chat­ted about Jews and blacks. I men­tioned to him how the arrival of North­ern Jews in the South as Civ­il Rights activists fright­ened South­ern Jews whose pro­files were sud­den­ly raised in the eyes of increas­ing­ly enraged seg­re­ga­tion­ists. When North­ern activists returned North, South­ern Jews became tar­gets of revenge. Homes were burned, busi­ness­es destroyed, lives maimed. John shook his head, remem­ber­ing, I sus­pect. He told me his own father was antag­o­nis­tic to his Civ­il Rights activ­i­ties, fear­ing the same treat­ment those South­ern Jews suf­fered. He dis­owned him; they didn’t speak for years. Luck­i­ly, I found a sec­ond father in the Move­ment,” John said. A Jew. Leon Gutherz. My father and I lat­er rec­on­ciled but Leon will always be my sec­ond father. He was the one who com­fort­ed me and men­tored me through those years.”

Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. Rab­bi Per­ry Nuss­baum. Leon Gutherz. They are all Moses. 

Mary Glick­man is an author, a for­mer free-lance copy­writer, pub­lic rela­tions pro­fes­sion­al, and fundrais­er who has worked with many Jew­ish char­i­ties and orga­ni­za­tions. Her 2011 nov­el One More Riv­er was a final­ist for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award. Her most recent book, March­ing to Zion (Open Road Media), is now avail­able. Read more about Mary Glick­man here.

Mary Glick­man has authored five nov­els, Home in the Morn­ing, Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award Final­ist in Fic­tion’s One More Riv­er, March­ing to Zion, An Undis­turbed Peace, list­ed by South­ern Liv­ing as a best nov­el of 2016, and By the Rivers of Baby­lon. She lives on Johns Island, South Car­oli­na, with her hus­band, Stephen, and two demand­ing cats.