A 1954 Racially-Charged Court Case Becomes a Model for Racial Unity 56 Years Later


Shana R. Rivers

University of Alabama Press

Phone:             205-348-9534

Fax:                 205-348-9201

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A 1954 Racially-Charged Court Case Becomes a Model for Racial Unity 56 Years Later


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (Sept., 2010)—Houston author Mignette Yvonne Patrick Dorsey never dreamed that the articles she played with as a child in Los Angeles would become inspiration for a book, one seen as crucial to badly needed healing in today's fragmented racial environment. Speak Truth to Power: The Story of Charles Patrick, a Civil Rights Pioneer, hit  bookstores in August.


It is a fact that the state of Alabama played a major role in the national movement for civil rights. What is unknown is that as early as 1954, the raw courage of a little-known black WWII veteran in Birmingham united white and black citizens, sparked unprecedented front-page news coverage, prompted policy changes to the Birmingham police force and city commission, placed shifty politicians on the side of justice - and laid an early foundation for the Civil Rights Movement that ensued years later.


The story of Charles Patrick begins in December 1954. An argument with a white woman over a parking space leads to a savage beating administered by her police officer husband and two other cops. After agonizing soul searching, Patrick accuses the officers of assault before a racist judge and then waits for justice—or death. Having instructed his brother to support his family, and expecting his own demise, he is shocked when the officers are abruptly fired. He is even more stunned when they are rehired to the dismay of Birmingham’s white and black citizenry, the white-owned press and politicians.


With white citizens writing fiery letters in support of Patrick, black citizens rallying at the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, coupled with a barrage of well-placed front-page news stories, Patrick’s persistent quest for justice with one white and later two black attorneys pays off. Two of the officers are fired, followed by an F.B.I. investigation and federal indictment of the trio. Speak Truth to Power offers a rare look into the workings of the 1954 press, the city polity and unheralded civil rights attorneys — before Rosa Parks' brave stand. Most unusual, however, is that it unveils racial unity as early as 1954 and 1955.


Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Mignette Y. Patrick Dorsey is the youngest child of

Charles and Rutha Patrick. She is a journalist and writer, former city of Houston spokesperson,  and former high school journalism educator for Alief ISD. Currently, she is a writing instructor at LoneStar College, a University of Houston graduate student, and an active member of the Houston chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.


Speak Truth to Power is available at major bookstores, online, or directly from the publisher. View a short promotional video on, or, on the author's website:


The University of Alabama Press founded in 1945 is one of the largest and fastest-growing publishers in the South. It publishes over one hundred books a year in archaeology, military history, Judaic studies, literary criticism, communication, sports, Civil Rights, religion, southern history, and regional topics.


Speak Truth to Power: The Story of Charles Patrick, a Civil Rights Pioneer

by Mignette Y. Patrick DorseyPublication date: August 4, 2010
144 pages • 5.5” x 8.5” • 10 illustrations
ISBN-10 0-8173-5556-1 • $16.00 paperback

ISBN-13 978-0-8173-5556-2


ISBN-10 0-8173-8266-6 • $12.80 ebook

ISBN-13 978-0-8173-8266-7










To order, contact the Chicago Distribution Center    800-621-2736    fax: 800-621-8476

For additional information, contact:  Shana R. Rivers    direct line: 205-348-9534

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