Here’s the thing: there are so many iconic people in the Civil Rights movement that are etched in my brain that, sometimes, I forget they are not seared in everyone else’s. So during the month, I’m going to mention some folks you may have heard of, or possible not.
RUBY NELL BRIDGES, who turned 60 on September 8, 2014, was the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in the American South. She attended William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana, starting in 1960. Ruby appeared on the cover of LOOK magazine, a very popular publication in the day, portrayed in this iconic picture by Norman Rockwell entitled The Problem We All Live With.
She notes: “Though I did not know it then, nor would I come to realize it for many years, what transpired in the fall of 1960 in New Orleans would forever change my life and help shape a nation. Continue reading Ruby Bridges: civil rights icon
It was late February, the week between when the Arizona state legislature passed S. 1062, allowing a “religious exception” to provide service to people, presumably gay people, and when Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill. I was watching JEOPARDY!, in real time. A clue popped up about the Greensboro Four, the young black men who, in February 1960, sat in at a Woolworth’s “whites only” lunch counter.
Suddenly, the Daughter started singing this song, about it, Rosa Parks, and the Little Rock Nine like events, which I had never heard before:
“Some young men in Carolina sat down at a counter and asked for something to eat
Cause they had a dream, yes they had a dream
And when no one served them, they just kept sitting, they never missed a beat
Cause they had a dream, yes they had a dream
They had a dream that all our children could live in harmony
And go to school together and work in the land of liberty”
Continue reading The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
NBC News did a very interesting thing last month: it rebroadcast the August 25, 1963 episode of the news panel program Meet the Press, 50 years after the original broadcat. You can read the transcript at the site as well. The guests were Roy Wilkins, head of the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. They were speaking three days before the massive March on Washington.
What I found fascinating is that there are two overriding themes in the questioning. One comes in the first question Continue reading Race in America, late summer, 1963
December 1 is World AIDS Day, with the current theme “Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths”.
It’s also the date, in 1955, that the Montgomery Bus Boycott began in Alabama, which, for me, signified the beginning of the modern civil rights era. Yes, Truman integrated the armed forces before that, and the Supreme Court had integrated the schools. The bus boycott, though, was a mass mobilization of many “ordinary” people to not sit in the back of the bus.
I resisted telling this story before because… well, let me tell it, then get into that. Continue reading World AIDS Day, and the Civil Rights movement
The news that made the recent headlines in terms of marriage equality in the United States was that a federal appeals court ruled Proposition 8, the California plebiscite overturning gay marriage, violated the Constitution, setting up an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, or possibly not. Meanwhile, the Washington state legislature passed a bill legalizing gay marriage; here is part of the debate. Also, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch has vowed to veto efforts to repeal that state’s same-sex marriage law.
Discussing specifically the California judicial ruling Continue reading E is for Equality
While praising New York state lawmakers as they debated legalizing gay marriage, President Barack Obama stopped short of embracing it. Instead he asked gay and lesbian donors for patience. “I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” the president said at a Manhattan fundraiser [last Thursday], his first geared specifically to the gay community.
Last week, my Internet buddy Arthur posited the question: Has President Obama done enough for gay rights? He included a news video. “Let me be clear: President Obama is dead wrong on marriage equality: Civil unions are not a substitute for real marriage. It’s time for the president to stop “evolving” and get there and support full equality for GLBT people.
“However, Dan Choi is also wrong, possibly because he doesn’t know history. As Brian Ellner of the Human Rights Campaign says, this president has done more than any other president for GLBT equality than any other president in history.”
And this reminded me of a program I watched on PBS last month called Freedom Riders.
FREEDOM RIDERS is the powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. Harrowing is right; it took me at least four sittings to get through the whole thing, not because it was boring, but because it was so intense. Just watch the two-minute Freedom Riders trailer.
From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism.
Continue reading Freedom Riders: An Appreciation