George Ow Jr to Introduce Maria Gitin at Bookshop Santa Cruz

Community Leader and diversity champion George Ow Jr. will introduce Maria Gitin’s reading and book signing event at Bookshop Santa Cruz
Monday August 11th 7:30 PM
Free and open to All

Read More about the Book:

Daniel Dodge Sr, Maria Gitin, Felipe Hernandez, Mavel Arujo and George Ow Jr NAACP Banquet 2014

Daniel Dodge Sr, Maria Gitin, Felipe Hernandez, Mavel Arujo and George Ow Jr NAACP Banquet 2014

Bookshop SC event flyer

More Praise for “This Bright Light of Ours”


“THIS BRIGHT LIGHT OF OURS is a thoughtful, concise, multi-level, artful and thoroughly researched narrative of Maria Gitin’s summer as an Anglo volunteer voter registration worker in Camden, AL.  With candid, almost innocent precision, she exposes her multi-adventure summer experience which includes: lives of her co-workers and an intimate, historic and present exposé of African Americans in a rural back-water town challenging brutal and cleverly subtle oppression. This book is captivating because it presents so many documented stories about courageous ‘ordinary’ people. “  – Bob Fitch, photojournalist, My Eyes Have Seen [correct title, Glide Publishing, 1972]  May 2, 2014

I just finished reading the book and I loved it. At numerous points it had me in tears. And I very deeply appreciate your focus on the numerous and varied foot soldiers. Those are the stories most easily forgotten and too seldom told. – Gordon Gibson, Unitarian pastor, civil rights activist, Knoxville, TN – April 14, 2014

I’ve just bought your book and started to read it. It is absolutely compelling. I couldn’t put it down! I admire you greatly for your achievement and perseverance in realizing your vision.The book is clearly organized and written. Surely it will serve as a testimony of that vital time for generations to come.– Mary Swope, retired fine arts teacher, SCOPE volunteer. San Francisco, CA April 16, 2014

Maria Gitin tells her own story on her own terms, giving readers an honest rendering of one woman’s experience on the front lines of struggle against a deeply entrenched system of racial oppression.  Her book is a worthy companion piece to Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi and Ned Cobb’s superb Alabama narrative All God’s Dangers. 

Clarence Mohr, Chairman, History Department, University of South Alabama,
Mobile, AL – April 8, 2014

More about the book:

lorez Final book coverJkt_Gitin_final


This Bright Light Alabama Book Tour March 6-13, 2014

Representatives of families featured in the book are welcomed and recognized at all events.

Thursday March 6th 6:00-8:00 PM

A Celebration of Civil Rights with Author Maria Gitin

Lena Powell Convention Center 211 Claiborne Street, Camden, Alabama 

Maria Gitin, a veteran of the Summer of 1965 voting rights movement in Wilcox County, will present a memorial slideshow, read and speak about her new book “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight”, University of Alabama Press. Rev Dr Lewis V Baldwin King Scholar, Author and Camden native, will offer the invocation. Food and beverages will be hosted by the Wilcox Section of the NCNW. Book sales will be conducted by Black Belt Treasures.   Free and open to all.


Saturday March 8, 5-7 PM

This Bright Light of Ours, Author Maria Gitin to Appear at Selma Jubilee Author’s Corner – St James Hotel, Water Avenue, Selma, AL

University of Alabama Press is pleased to announce that Maria Gitin, author of the new civil rights memoir and history, “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight” will be featured in the Selma Jubilee “Authors’ Corner” Saturday March 8, 5-7 PM. This annual event features civil rights authors. The book will be available for purchase and Maria Gitin will be available for signing.

Sunday March 9  -Selma Jubilee March Special Notice –

Meet at 1 PM outside Brown Chapel, to walk with Wilcox County Freedom Fighters 2:00-3:00 PM

The annual bridge re-enactment ceremony, commemorating Bloody Sunday, will take place this year on Sunday March 9th. In addition to celebrity guests including Lou Gossett Jr, there will be a large contingent of activists and former civil rights workers from Wilcox County, AL. This will be the largest gathering of Wilcox County marchers since the original event March 7, 1965 during which hundreds of nonviolent voting rights demonstrators were tear gassed, beaten and trampled by officers on horseback. Many Wilcox County residents and former activists attend the Re-enactment march annually. This year, many are attending in commemoration of the publication of “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight”, which contains the stories of more than thirty individuals and families who were active in the 1960’s voting rights movement. The group will meet at 1 PM across from Brown Chapel, under the “Wilcox County Freedom Fighters” banner. Many of the grassroots activists and the author will be available for interviews and photographs.

Monday March 10th 6-7 PM Rosa Parks Museum Auditorium, Montgomery AL

Maria Gitin, civil rights veteran and author of “This Bright Light of Ours”, Universite of Alabama Press will be joined Lewis V Baldwin, Camden native and Martin Luther King Scholar and author in a presentation, discussion and book signing. The two will discuss King’s influence on their lives as teenagers, and how that influence affected their life choices. The audience will then be invited to ask questions related to the topic: Where do we go from here? Both authors will read and discuss their own recent works. Open to the public.


Tuesday March 11th 6-7 PM  “The Rankins Files” Radio Interview

Deborah Rankins will interview author and civil rights veteran Maria Gitin and Joy Crawford-Washington, whose grandparents kept a safe house for civil rights workers in Pine Apple, Alabama. The Crawford family is featured in Ms. Gitin’s new book about the Wilcox County Voting Rights Movement,  “This Bright Light of Ours” from University of Alabama Press.The Rankins Files, is a live broadcast on DIXIE 94.5 FM/WHOD heard in southwest Alabama, on the internet and smart phone through the TUNEIN app. 


Thursday March 13th 5:30-7:30 PM History Museum of Mobile, Mobile, AL

Author and civil rights veteran Maria Gitin will present an historic slide show, read and discuss her new book “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight,” University of Alabama Press. A reception and book signing will follow. All are welcome.

Alabama Book Launch & Selma Jubilee

All Wilcox County Freedom Fighters, friends and family are welcome to attend the March 6th celebration in Camden and to march with us under the Wilcox County Freedom Fighter banner Sunday March 9th in Selma. I will also be with University of Alabama Press for “Meet the Author Book Signing” at the St. James Hotel Saturday March 8th 5-7 PM. See my book website: for more details. We hope to see you there!Camden Book Celebration

This Bright Light of Ours Prepares to Launch: Save These Dates!

To stay current with Maria Gitin & friends events and appearances, and to leave comments about the book, please visit

Upcoming Events and Appearances 

Maria with Charles Bonner, Karina Cervantez and Javier de la Paz

Maria with Charles Bonner, Karina Cervantez and Javier de la Paz

Saturday February 15th – Oakland, CA, Holy Names University Social Justice Forum, Voting Rights panel with civil right attorney Charles A Bonner and Watsonville Mayor Karina Cervantez. Register for this great conference: The Dream Lives On: A Call to Action

Thursday February 20th Aptos, CA– 6-7:30 PM West Coast Book Launch, Reading, & Signing at Temple Beth El, 3055 Porter Gulch Rd,  Free and open to the public with hosted reception.

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr at Temple Beth El

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr at Temple Beth El

Thursday March 6th  Camden, AL —  6-7:30 PM  Alabama Book Book Launch Celebration at the Lena Powell Convention Center 211 Claiborne Street in. Camden native son, Rev Dr LV Baldwin will come to give the invocation. Brief program with reading, historic slides and recognition of the 30+ families and individuals who contributed stories to the book. Free and open to the public with hosted reception, book sales and signing.

Freedom Fighters: The Next Generation

Freedom Fighters: The Next Generation

Sunday March 9th Selma, AL– Participate in the Selma Jubilee bridge re-enactment ceremony. Meet under the Wilcox County Freedom Fighters banner outside Brown Chapel.  Families may make T-shirts or posters with family and civil rights hero photo on them. Please spread the word to everyone who lived or worked in the Wilcox Movement. 

Thursday, March 13th Mobile AL – 6:30 PM Museum of History, Book talk, signing and reception. 251-208-7246 or

Dreams of Gees Bend

a contemporary Gees Bend quilt

a contemporary Gees Bend quilt

A message from 3rd generation quilter Delia Pettway Thibodeaux reminded me of a story I had to delete from my forthcoming book, This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, University of Alabama Press 2014, due to length.  I want to share this with Delia and all who know that poverty in Gees Bend and the rest of Wilcox County is still terrible, that there is a long way to go to have true equality, but that the freedom of the people has endured for centuries. Freedom didn’t come with us civil rights workers. Rather, we learned about real freedom, the freedom of the soul, from them. IMG_0666_0131_131

For several nights after I returned to Gees Bend in 2008, I had dreams with the quilters in them, both the women I had met in 1965, the ones I met recently and still others who appeared only in my dreams. In most of the dreams, the ladies are telling overlapping stories. I try to catch their meaning, feeling inadequate and behind, much as I did for the six years I worked on my memoir and oral history book about my experience and the experiences of others in the Wilcox County voting rights struggle.

Essie Bendolph Pettway quilt

Essie Bendolph Pettway quilt

This was the most vivid dream.  There are small clusters of women around fires in four corners of an outdoor area, an irregularly shaped grounds. Two of the areas are called “Piece of Mind” and two are “Peace of Mind.” There are signs that appear to me in my mind’s eye in the dream. In the center is a circle of women, slightly younger than the 70-90 year olds at the four corners. They are called “Reflections.” Without words it is explained that Piece of Mind was where quilts made for the primary purpose of sale were being stacked. They are newer and not made as carefully.

In the Peace of Mind corners, women who made the quilts are unfolding them and draping them over clotheslines to air out. They tell me that they will be sold to split the money between themselves and an organization that helps the community. In the middle, in the Reflections circle, the women are copying the early Gees Bend designs like Housetop, Wrist and Hand, Bear’s Paw that now hang in museums and galleries. They are making these for the next generation, for themselves and for sale and show. My task is to hold threads, try to keep straight the strands of many different colors that they pull from my hands.

The Reflections women ask me to join in the quilting but I barely know how to keep the threads sorted, let alone begin to sew. It is all I can do to hold the threads, weave a story, not the same story that has been told over and over, filmed and written about, but a new story. In 2008, I didn’t know what that story would become. Although the book is completed, I might have remained a witness-participant, not a seamstress.

But I had guides to help me weave my own and dozens of other stories from the Wilcox County voting rights struggle together, to make the work feel whole.  I extend deep gratitude to my supportive and generous developmental editors: Dr. Martha Jane Brazy, Samuel Torres Jr, and Cassandra Shaylor. Without their expert guidance of my collection and vision, the many pieces might still lie in fragments.

©Maria Gitin 2013

My Heart is Filled With Gratitude

Many generous folks contributed over the past seven years to This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, a memoir and collection of true stories from the last large integrated voter registration drive during the Freedom Summer of 1965.

Fifty-five courageous individuals entrusted me with their stories of living in a violent, racist community while fighting for their voting rights in Wilcox County, Alabama. My beloved SNCC friends, Charles “Chuck” Bonner and Luke “Bob” Block ( kept me honest as I recreated our teenage civil rights work and play. Wilcox County community leaders opened doors, answered endless questions and become dear friends including: W. Kate Charley, Sheryl Threadgill, Alma King, and John Matthews. Civil Rights photographer Bob Fitch ( shared historic images that enrich the work immensely.

For generous encouragement, and expert counsel over the years, huge appreciation goes to brilliant author-scholar, Lewis V. Baldwin. ( For consistent and accurate fact checking, terminology, and political theory, my hero is Bruce Hartford, lay historian and web manager for the national Civil Rights Veterans website ( Scott E. Kirkland, researcher and curator of the Museum of History in Mobile, AL, played a vital role in the placement of this book, as a champion for an accurate portrayal of the Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project, designed and spearheaded by civil rights hero, Hosea Williams.

Author-activist Bettina Aptheker, the late James Houston, and Benet Luchion provided early encouragement. Developmental editor Cassandra Shaylor helped shape the book for interest. Historian Martha Jane Brazy of University of South Alabama enthusiastically embraced the work during its final year, generously offering me graduate student level attention. Willy Siegal Leventhal’s unending fight for recognition of the SCOPE ( project was and is an inspiration.

Thanks to my beloved cousin, Jeanne Hanks, and my friend, Debbie Kogan, for empathetic listening during my years of obsessing about this project. Deep appreciation goes to my publicist, Joy Crawford-Washington of BGC Communications, for tireless support and warm friendship. To my yoga teacher, Amey Matthews for teaching me flexibility and strength are not opposites. And to Lauren Mari-Navarro for insights and resources. To Joan for fun & friendship.

Photo by Charley Hatfield, Aptos, CA

My husband, Samuel Torres Jr., offered me freedom to pursue the project, frequent and much-needed critiques, archival research, copyright management, proof-reading, tough talk and tender love, and took great photos. I can never thank him enough, but I am working on it!

Thank you all! Have a great Thanksgiving!  And Keep on Keepin’ On! – We have a long ways to go to achieve real racial and economic justice in the world!

The book has been retitled: This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, and will be published by University of Alabama Press in January 2014. Speaking engagements and book-signings are being scheduled now. Please contact: Joy Crawford-Washington, for more information.