Why Remembering the Civil Rights Movement is Pivotal Today


20170914_160648The featured photo is Joanne Bland who we met in Selma. Young Bland marched on “Bloody Sunday” and “Turn Around Tuesday,” and the first leg of the successful March from Selma to Montgomery, witnessing brutal beatings of fellow marchers by police. By the time she was 11 years old Bland had been arrested documented 13 times.

I spent most of last week touring through the deep south with the Alabama Tourism Board visiting the Civil Rights trail starting in Atlanta and then going through Montgomery, Tuskegee, Selma and Birmingham. Although I know a lot about the Civil Rights movement, there is still a ton that I didn’t know and still have yet to discover. I learned that clearly while listening to those who marched with Dr. King and put their lives on the line for social, economic, and political justice. I learned that while visiting the black churches that acted as hubs for the movement and by learning about how enmeshed racism was during Jim Crow. I learned that when I saw where Dr. King’s house was firebombed in Birmingham and how we still mourn they four little girls who died at the hand of the Klan on September 15, 1963.

Needless to say, I learned a lot in those few days. Did you know that Alabama has a longer constitution than the American constitution? It’s because countless Jim Crow laws were written and enacted into the Alabama Constitution and then had to be amended. I believe there were roughly 800 Jim Crow laws (and they were detailed!) to keep the races separate and unequal.

Some 50 years after the Civil Rights movement, we have protests all around the country still fighting for basic justice and equal rights and to simply stop killing black men dead in the streets without any repercussions. St. Louis has been the latest and it won’t be the last. It’s funny how times change. Actually, maybe not funny at all. It was important to the Civil Rights movement to be singularly non-violent not only because it was rooted in Christianity and love, but also as a protest tactic. They knew that if the country saw blacks being bitten by dogs, hit over the head with billy clubs, and hosed down by 70 tons of metric pressure, it would make a lasting impression on this country and on the world.

Today, the protest tactic has changed to be sure. I believe there are some non-violent protests, but far and away the largest ones have been violent with multiple arrests. One of the Civil Rights speakers we talked to said that it’s up to this generation about how they’ll deal with injustice. I think she’s right. I’m a little too old to walk the streets especially when fires are started and objects are being thrown. I’ll leave that up to the young people. But, I’m not too old to see what’s happening and hope that the movements can attain some leadership and organization like they did in the sixties.

 

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