In that section, Rev. Vivian talks about a confrontation he had in 1965 with the infamous racist Sheriff Jim Clark in Selma on the courthouse steps. The event was noteworthy enough that the book quotes Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta and U.N. Ambassador as saying that without that moment, which was caught on film and played extensively on television, that "We would not have had the Voting Rights Act." Reporter Ernie Suggs of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is quoted that because it was on television, historians have called the exchange on the steps "one of the defining moments of the civil rights movement."
The book even explains how to find the important moment online -- which I suspect was a Fiffer inclusion. I won't say why the confrontation was so important, since it will stand out all the more if you see it as if new, and I tracked down the video to post here.
Vivan says about Sheriff Clark that he "was a bully, but he was hardly unique. His society, his cultute allowed bullies. Look at the values that the churches they went to taught. You can't be good under those circumstances. Understanding this, you won't be surprised to learn that Clark not only denied our contingent of would-be registrants entry to the courthouse, but his manner was, shall we say, less than friendly polite."
And not only is that him saying this half-a-century later, but watching the video, and from want C.T. Vivian says in the book, it seems pretty clear that he knew this at the time about Sheriff Clark, and went out of his way to push things to their fullest on the courthouse steps. Clark, of course, could have stepped back and handled the situation as a sheriff should. Rev. Vivian appears pretty certain he wouldn't. In fact, as Pulitzer Prize-winning civil rights historian Taylor Branch said about the exchange that Vivian "knew it was gonna advance the movement the moment it happened."
Here's that famous confrontation on the Selma courthouse steps.