Best Of 2006

Best Local Author: Raymond Arsenault

It’s one thing to write a book that entertains, but it’s quite another matter to pen one that instantly becomes a vital part of the American historical pantheon. That’s what USF St. Petersburg professor Raymond Arsenault has accomplished with his Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Oxford University Press). His tome, which has been called “a tour de force of research and writing,” tracks a cadre of activists, African American and white, who defied Jim Crow laws and rode segregated Southern buses in the face of seething bigotry and racial reprisals. Arsenault provides deep historical context, profiles the major players and builds an increasingly harrowing narrative of the struggle. (We should note that until a couple of months ago, Arsenault’s daughter Anne was the Weekly Planet’s copy editor. She left, appropriately enough, to attend law school.)