A Lost Narrative from the Civil Rights Era
by PAUL SPIKE
A Re-Issue of 1973 Knopf First Edition
With a new Afterword by Paul Spike
Trade paper $17.95 / 978-1-941026-23-6
E-Book $17.95 / 978-1-941026-24-3
In 1966, a man killed civil-rights leader Rev. Robert Spike. Was it an assassination? Was it simply murder? Paul Spike attempts to rescue his father and his self with the truth.
“So unforgettable that I felt my heart was breaking when I came to the end.” —Paul Auster
At the National Council of Churches, Robert Spike had organized American churches to support the passage of both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, to march in Selma and to organize in Mississippi. An important white leader in the black civil rights struggle, he helped the LBJ White House pass legislation and write crucial civil rights speeches. In the midst of what he described as “the dirtiest fight of my life” struggling to save a federal Mississippi education program, he was viciously murdered in Columbus, Ohio. The murder was never solved. Very little effort went into finding the murderer. The Columbus police and the FBI hinted the unsolved murder was connected to Spike’s undisclosed gay life. During his father's rise in the civil rights movement, Paul Spike lived a life typical of a young man in the 1960s, finding his way through a labyrinth of booze, drugs, and girls. At Columbia University, he was active in the 1968 student rebellion and friends with many SDS radicals. That rootless life ended with his father's murder.
“We don’t believe these assassinations are an accident. We believe there is a conspiracy. Too many of our most important leaders have been assassinated. John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, Dr. King, Robert Spike…” —Hosea Williams, SCLC civil rights leader
“So we not only believe Mr. Spike's story and participate in its comedy, its terror, its extreme pain and ultimate triumph. We also can identify with the author to the point where we understand both his private suffering and the rage he finally vented against the system. For Mr. Spike doesn't whine or exhort or rationalize or rail or ask for sympathy. He simply states how things were with the utmost insight and candor.” —Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times in a review of the first edition of Photographs of My Father
After Robert Spike’s death, Martin Luther King wrote to his widow and two sons— “Deeply saddened to learn of the death of our dear friend Bob Spike. His death comes as a great loss to the nation and to the fellowship of the committed. He was one of those rare individuals who sought at every point to make religion relevant to the social issues of our time. He lifted religion from the stagnant arena of pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. His brilliant and dedicated work in the National Council of Churches will be an inspiration to generations yet unborn. We will always remember his unswerving dedication to the legitimate aspirations of oppressed people for freedom and human dignity. It was my personal pleasure and sacred privilege to work closely with him in various undertakings as we continue to grapple with the ancient evils of man’s inhumanity to man. We will be sustained and consoled by Bob’s dedicated spirit. Please know that we share your grief at this moment and you have our deepest sympathy and most passionate prayers for strength and guidance in these trying moments.”
PAUL SPIKE is the author of five books. A former editor of Punch magazine, his writing has appeared in many publications, including the Village Voice, The Sunday Times, Vogue, the TLS and The Paris Review. He now lives in London. Photographs of My Father was published in 1973 when Paul was 23 years old and named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, 1973.