On the Lived Theology Reading List: The Class of ’65: A Student, a Divided Town, and the Long Road to Forgiveness

Forgiveness from Americus, Georgia

Greg Wittkamper, a white teenager in the 1960s, welcomed desegregation at Americus High School, having grown up on a diverse, accepting Christian commune. The same could not be said for his fellow white students, who subjected Greg to endless cruelty as punishment for his lack of hostility toward black students. In The Class of ’65, Atlanta journalist Jim Auchmutey explores Greg’s life in Americus, as well as the moment when a dozen white students reached out to Greg 40 years after graduating high school, seeking his forgiveness for their past behavior. Auchmutey’s book involves Greg unearthing the traumatic abuse he endured in his teenage years, while at the same time taking a complicated path toward radical forgiveness of his peers. As devastating as it is hopeful, The Class of ’65 tells a true story of redemption while recalling chilling details of the racially divided American South during the Civil Rights Era.

Jim Auchmutey is a former journalist at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, with stories focusing on culture and life in the American South. In addition to The Class of ’65, Auchmutey is also the author of Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America and The Ultimate Barbecue Sauce Cookbook. He is a two-time winner of Cox Newspapers chain’s Writer of the Year award.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Jim Auchmutey set out to write a book about one man’s journey to forgiveness, but The Class of ’65 is truly the story of how one generation discovered its soul. [Auchmutey] takes readers to that reunion and beautifully describes the conflictive feelings that were present.”

-The Columbus Ledger Dispatch

“A spellbinding, deeply sensitive portrayal of the conflicted heart of the South. Through the stories of children who have now become middle age, we see racism crashing into conscience, cowardice transforming into courage.”

– Hank Klibanoff, co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Race Beat

“Author Jim Auchmutey, a journalist who worked for nearly three decades at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, expertly tells the story of that student, the Americus community, the larger civil rights struggle and an unexpected reconciliation decades later. The reconciliation that follows in Auchmutey’s compelling narrative is at times tentative and halting, but also filled with emotional power. And it appears to be still in progress. At the time of the reunion, it included only Wittkamper and his white classmates. The closing section of Auchmutey’s book suggests another chapter yet to be written, as blacks and whites together make peace with the past.”

– The Associated Press

For more information on the publication, click here.

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