Recommended for readers 12+
Originally published in 2012, The Silence of Our Friends is getting a re-release next week.Set in 1968 Texas, The Silence of Our Friends tells the story of two families – a black family and a white family – who come together as the civil rights struggle comes to a boil. It’s a memoir of Mark Long’s childhood in a virulently racist Texan suburb; it’s the story of his journalist father, Jack, and his friendship with African-American professor at Texas Southern University professor, Larry Thompson; and it’s the story of a lesser-known event in civil rights history: a series of student protests at Texas Southern University, culminating in police brutality and shots fired at unarmed African-American students in a university dorm. Those same students were imprisoned and put on trial for the death of a police officer who was killed by a fellow officer’s misfire.
The Silence of Our Friends is taken from the Martin Luther King quote, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” It’s a powerful quote given powerful illustration in Long’s story. Jack Long is a journalist trying to do the right thing, but his racist boss wants a pro-white narrative in the press. Jack’s silence can kill.
Artist Nate Powell, who beautifully illustrated John Lewis’ March trilogy, creates strong, stark images here, using black and white artwork to create imposing shadows and menacing crowds and idyllic homes with tension thrumming throughout. The Silence of Our Friends is an ally’s story and a good additional title in civil rights collections.