"The Colored Waiting Room:" Author Kevin Shird's Homage to Civil Rights History | WYPR

"The Colored Waiting Room:" Author Kevin Shird's Homage to Civil Rights History

Apr 16, 2018

Author Kevin Shird's homage to civil rights history.
Credit Cover art courtesy Apollo Press

Today, a conversation about the power of history.

The struggle for civil rights that we’ve remembered in the life and death of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  and other leaders of the movement a half-century ago is a struggle that continues today.  But how much do we really know about what happened in Montgomery and Selma and Memphis back in the 1950s and 60s, and about how to connect Dr. King’s work with today’s Black Lives Matter movement? 

We don’t know enough, says Baltimore author and youth advocate Kevin Shird, who joins Midday senior producer and guest host Rob Sivak  this hour to talk about his new book, The Colored Waiting Room:  Empowering the Original and the New Civil Rights Movementsthe author's effort to make America’s civil rights history come alive in the context of today’s fraught racial landscape.

Mr. Shird gained a new appreciation for the power of history after he struck up a friendship two years ago with 84 year-old Nelson Malden of Montgomery, Alabama.  Malden is an African American who’d been an eyewitness to the historic civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s that played out in Montgomery and elsewhere, and who was, for more than six years, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s barber.

Mr. Shird found in Nelson Malden a willing mentor and history guide, someone who could satisfy his yearning to know more about the American civil rights struggle than what he’d learned in school.

Author Kevin Shird and King barber Nelson Malden, at a book debut
Credit Photo courtesy Kevin Shird

In his new book, Kevin Shird describes his friendship with Nelson Malden, and the pilgrimages he made to the American South and to Malden’s Montgomery home.  It's a personal narrative that tells the story of the civil rights struggle through Nelson Malden’s shared experience, and draws lessons from it for today’s new movement for racial justice.

Kevin Shird will be talking about his new book with podcast host Marc Steiner tomorrow evening starting at 6:30pm at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, as part of its Writers Live Series, an event co-sponsored by the IvyBookshop. For more more information, click here.

Audio clips of Nelson Malden during today's show were excerpted with permission from Behind the Barbers’ Chair: the Nelson Malden Story, a short video feature produced as part of the Lights,Camera, Alabama series by the Honors College at the University of Alabama @ Tuskaloosa.  Our thanks to them! 

This program was Live Streamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can view the video here.