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May 2016

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May 2016

The Changing 2nd Edition of a NATION Civil Rights and Historical Issue 2016 its’ PEOPLE! The 1965 Voting Rights Act

55th Anniversary Commemoration of Freedom Rides Friday & Saturday, May 20-21 ~ Freedom Rides Museum, Downtown Montgomery Fifty-five years later, to the hour, Freedom Riders are returning to Montgomery’s Greyhound Bus Station. In 1961, they stepped off a bus at 10:23 AM, aiming to end the illegal practice of forbidding black and white citizens from sitting together on buses and trains, or in stations and airports. They were attacked and beaten by an angry, police-sanctioned mob. On May 20, Freedom Riders from all over the nation will gather at the former bus station in Montgomery at 10:00 AM to help the Alabama Historical Commission commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange will provide greetings for the event. At 10:23 a.m., we are asking each church or school in the Montgomery area to honor the Freedom Riders by ringing their bells. The Museum’s current exhibit will feature work by artist Charlotte Riley-Webb. In addition, there will be a series of events in Montgomery to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, including: • A Community Event at First Baptist Church, 347 N. Ripley Street where the Freedom Riders will speak about their experiences. • First Annual B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Bike) Freedom Ride (free event) register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/first-annual-byob-bring-your-own-bike-freedom-ride-tickets-251-352-37171 • Book Signings, Gallery Talks, Museum Tours There will be free admission to the museum on Friday and Saturday. Please visit www.freedomridesmuseum.org to download a schedule of events and find us on Facebook. For more information about this event contact Dorothy Walker at dorothy.walker@ahc.alabama.gov or call 334-414- 8647. The Alabama Historical Commission would like to thank the Friends of the Freedom Rides Museum, the City of Montgomery and all other sponsors for their support of the Freedom Rides 55th Anniversary events. Working with concerned citizens, The Alabama Historical Commission saved the Greyhound Bus Station from demolition in the mid-1990s. The Museum is located at the intersection of S. Court St. and Adams Avenue in downtown Montgomery. The Alabama Historical Commission owns and operates this significant historic site. The Alabama Historical Commission protects, preserves, and interprets Alabama’s historic places and is the State Historic Preservation Office.


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May 2016

Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream� speech, delivered at the 28 August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom...

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men -- yes, black men as well as white men -- would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for whites only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends -- so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Continued on next page.


May 2016

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Continued from previous page. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!" And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi -- from every mountainside. Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring -- when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children -- black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics -- will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and following years to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia (1946) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional.

President Barack Obama honors Freedom Riders. Tony Watkins’ photo provided by Ms. Betty D. Rosemond ( Pictured on 2nd row to right in white suit.)

On May 20, 1961 a brave group of college students took a Greyhound Bus ride leaving from Birmingham, Alabama heading to downtown Montgomery, Alabama. These men and women were promised security and police escorts, but were greeted by a mob of approximately 300 white angry townspeople wielding bats, pipes and other weapons. They beat the group within an inch of their lives, even to dousing a man with kerosene and setting him on fire. This, however, did not stop the small brave group from continuing on with their goal; at this point failure was not an option. They made their mark in history for their acts of bravery and determination. From that point these courageous young men and women joined the already famously known group called The Freedom Riders. Visit the Freedom Riders Art Museum which is now located inside the original Greyhound Bus Station, Montgomery, Alabama.


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The Voting Rights Act of 1965

May 2016


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May 2016

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Department of Justice

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 The 1965 Enactment 89th United States Congress By 1965 concerted efforts to break the grip of state disfranchisement had been under way for some time, but had achieved only modest success overall and in some areas had proved almost entirely ineffectual. The murder of voting-rights activists in Philadelphia, Mississippi, gained national attention, along with numerous other acts of violence and terrorism. Finally, the unprovoked attack on March 7, 1965, by state troopers on peaceful marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, en route to the state capitol in Montgomery, persuaded the President and Congress to overcome Southern legislators' resistance to effective voting rights legislation. President Johnson issued a call for a strong voting rights law and hearings began soon thereafter on the bill that would become the Voting Rights Act. Congress determined that the existing federal anti-discrimination laws were not sufficient to overcome the resistance by state officials to enforcement of the 15th Amendment. The legislative hearings showed that the Department of Justice's efforts to eliminate discriminatory election practices by litigation on a case-by-case basis had been unsuccessful in opening up the registration process; as soon as one discriminatory practice or procedure was proven to be unconstitutional and enjoined, a new one would be substituted in its place and litigation would have to commence anew. President Johnson signed the resulting legislation into law on August 6, 1965. Section 2 of the Act, which closely followed the language of the 15th amendment, applied a nationwide prohibition against the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on the literacy tests on a nationwide basis. Among its other provisions, the Act contained special enforcement provisions targeted at those areas of the country where Congress believed the potential for discrimination to be the greatest. Under Section 5, jurisdictions covered by these special provisions could not implement any change affecting voting until the Attorney General or the United States District Court for the District of Columbia determined that the change did not have a discriminatory purpose and would not have a discriminatory effect. In addition, the Attorney General could designate a county covered by these special provisions for the appointment of a federal examiner to review the qualifications of persons who wanted to register to vote. Further, in those counties where a federal examiner was serving, the Attorney General could request that federal observers monitor activities within the county's polling place. The Voting Rights Act had not included a provision prohibiting poll taxes, but had directed the Attorney General to challenge its use. In Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966), the Supreme Court held Virginia's poll tax to be unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. Between 1965 and 1969 the Supreme Court also issued several key decisions upholding the constitutionality of Section 5 and affirming the broad range of voting practices that required Section 5 review. As the Supreme Court put it in its 1966 decision upholding the constitutionality of the Act: Congress had found that case-by-case litigation was inadequate to combat wide-spread and persistent discrimination in voting, because of the inordinate amount of time and energy required to overcome the obstructionist tactics invariably encountered in these lawsuits. After enduring nearly a century of systematic resistance to the Fifteenth Amendment, Congress might well decide to shift the advantage of time and inertia from the perpetrators of the evil to its victims. South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 327-28 (1966). The 1970 and 1975 Amendments - Congress extended Section 5 for five years in 1970 and for seven years in 1975. With these extensions Congress validated the Supreme Court's broad interpretation of the scope of Section 5. During the hearings on these extensions Congress heard extensive testimony concerning the ways in which voting electorates were manipulated through gerrymandering, annexations, adoption of at-large elections, and other structural changes to prevent newly-registered black voters from effectively using the ballot. Congress also heard extensive testimony about voting discrimination that had been suffered by Hispanic, Asian and Native American citizens, and the 1975 amendments added protections from voting discrimination for language minority citizens. In 1973, the Supreme Court held certain legislative multi-member districts unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment on the ground that they systematically diluted the voting strength of minority citizens in Bexar County, Texas. This decision in White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755 (1973), strongly shaped litigation through the 1970’s against at-large systems and gerrymandered redistricting plans. In Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55 (1980), however, the Supreme Court required that any constitutional claim of minority vote dilution must include proof of a racially discriminatory purpose, a requirement that was widely seen as making such claims far more difficult to prove. The 1982 Amendments - Congress renewed in 1982 the special provisions of the Act, triggered by coverage under Section 4 for twenty-five years. Congress also adopted a new standard, which went into effect in 1985, providing how jurisdictions could terminate (or "bail out" from) coverage under the provisions of Section 4. Furthermore, after extensive hearings, Congress amended Section 2 to provide that a plaintiff could establish a violation of the Section without having to prove discriminatory purpose. The 2006 Amendments - Congress renewed the special provisions of the Act in 2006 as part of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Cesar E. Chavez, Barbara Jordan, William Velazquez and Dr. Hector Garcia Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act. The 2006 legislation eliminated the provision for voting examiners. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Effect of the Voting Rights Act Soon after passage of the Voting Rights Act, federal examiners were conducting voter registration, and black voter registration began a sharp increase. The cumulative effect of the Supreme Court's decisions, Congress' enactment of voting rights legislation, and the ongoing efforts of concerned private citizens and the Department of Justice, has been to restore the right to vote guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments. The Voting Rights Act itself has been called the single most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress.


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First Baptist Church Greater Washington Park

Build a People, Build a Building, Build a Community

2817 2nd Street Greater Washington Park

Montgomery, Alabama 36108 (334) 284-2600 Rev. Dr. Willie Welch III

Dr. Leon F. Ross, Sr. Pastor Weeping Willow Missionary Baptist Church 2925 Forbes Road, Montgomery, AL John 3:16

May 2016

Known as “The Lilly,” church was active in Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56). Noted for its music, the church has seven choirs which recorded albums in 1974 and 1984. 500 members of the congregation participated in the nationally acclaimed movie, “Long Walk Home.” “The Lilly” has played a significant role in Montgomery since its founding November, 1900 and continues to serve as a spiritual beacon to the community.

Lilly Baptist Church 820 Hill Street Montgomery, Alabama 36108 (334) 269-2592 Congratulations on the Civil Rights 51st Anniversary

Big Roxanna Missionary Baptist Church 5001 Norman Bridge Road, Montgomery, Al 36105

Pastor Henry C. Davis, Jr.

9:00 a.m. Sunday School ~ 10:00 a.m. Sunday Morning Worship 6:30 p.m. Wednesday Night Bible Study 334-288-8069

“The Exciting”

New Life Baptist Church Rev. Charles Thomas

544 East 50th St Chicago, IL 60615 (773) 538-8220

1943 Rosa L Parks Ave Montgomery, Alabama 36108 Phone (828) 389-7094 Website - http://www.abc-usa.org/

150th Anniversary Celebration 150 Years of Commitment, Dedication, and Services to the Montgomery Community and the Nation FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH Montgomery, Alabama is a historic landmark. Founded in downtown Montgomery as one of the first black churches in the area. First Baptist Church also had a role in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Please join us for our 150th Anniversary Celebration.

A NATIONAL, HISTORICAL CIVIL RIGHTS LANDMARK.

Events Are: • Annual Alabama Baptist State Convention Saturday, August 6, 2016 at 10:30a.m. at First Baptist Church, 347 Ripley Montgomery, AL • The National Baptist Convention President 's Banquet, Friday, November 4, 2016 at 6:p.m. at The Montgomery Renaissance Marriott Hotel, 201 Tallapoosa St., Montgomery, AL • 150th Celebration honoring Civil Rights Activists and Community Leaders; Reception and Theater Production; November 12, 2016 at 6:00 p.m.; Davis Theater, 251 Montgomery St., Montgomery, AL • First Baptist Church 150th Anniversary Services, November 27, 2016 at 10:00 am.; 347 Ripley St., Montgomery, AL

E. Baxter Morris, Pastor Christopher Allen, Assistant Pastor CONTACT: E. BAXTER MORRIS, PASTOR

334-264-6921 www.firstbaptistchurchmontgomery.com

Office Hours 9:00 - 12 Noon Monday thru Friday Tours by appointment.


May 2016

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Sheriffs of the State of Alabama WHO MAKE A DIFFERENCE EVERY DAY. Montgomer y County Law Derrick Cunningham

(334) 832-4980 The Montgomery County Sheriffs Office has been a reporting part of The Alabama Gazette Publishing since 2000. We welcome Sheriff Cunningham as he continues to support and contributes information to our readers!

Buck Rodgers

Joe Benison

Kenneth Ellis

Bullock County Union Springs, AL 334-738-2670

Greene County Eutaw, AL 205-372-3242

Hale County Greensboro, AL 334-624-3081

“Big” John Williams

Andre Brunson

Richard “Ben” Bates

Lowndes County Hayneville, AL 334-548-6151

Macon County Tuskegee, AL 334-724-0669

Marengo County Linden, AL 334-295-4208

Billy Jones

Tyrone Clark

Ernest Evans

Perry County Marion, AL 334-683-6534

Sumter County Livingston, AL 205-652-7984

Wilcox County Camden, AL 334-682-4715


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May 2016

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church 454 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, AL The church is a National Historic Landmark because of its status as the birthplace of the Civil Right Movement. It is the only church where Martin Luther King, Jr. served as Senior Pastor. Enter through the ground-level doors to the basement where Rev. Davis Abernathy, NAACP activist E. D. Nixon, King and others vowed a bus boycott following the arrest of Mrs. Rosa Parks. King’s predecessor, Dr. Vernon Johns, had long advocated such action. A large mural depicts the struggles of the movement and landmark moments in King’s life. Construction the church began in 1833. Visit- www.dexterkingmemorial.org Alabama Tourism Department “But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A Simple Stand for FREEDOM Can Become A Spark for Eternal Change!

B George B. Bulls II Attorney At Law 2801 Althea Street • Tuskegee, AL 36088

Office: 334-727-1074 Cell: 334-421-8618 Fax: 334-727-1639

Email: g.bullsii@gmail.com

Rosa Parks: I was arrested on December 1st, 1955 for refusing to stand up on the orders of the bus driver, after the white seats had been occupied in the front. And of course, I was not in the front of the bus as many people have written and spoken that I was -- that I got on the bus and took the front seat, but I did not. I took a seat that was just back of where the white people were sitting, in fact, the last seat. A man was next to the window, and I took an aisle seat and there were two women across. We went on undisturbed until about the second or third stop when some white people boarded the bus and left one man standing. And when the driver noticed him standing, he told us to stand up and let him have those seats. He referred to them as front seats. And when the other three people -after some hesitancy -stood up, he wanted to know if I was going to stand up, and I told him I was not. And he told me he would have me arrested. And I told him he may do that. And of course, he did. Read the entire interview at: http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/par0int-1

Innovative new Author, Tony Watkins exposes history in his book, Shackled Again?, a collection of stories, historical documents, census records, photos, tax records, and personal accounts of those who lived and survived some of the most turbulent years in American history. Tony Watkins never dreamed a simple request by his great grandmother would lead him on a quest to uncover untold stories of heroism that have long been forgotten in civil rights history. It was a warm day in April 2009 when his great grandmother Mary E. Russell Watkins (Ma’dear) asked him to clean out an old shack on her property in Lowndes County, Alabama. She needed him to put more hay inside the shed for her cows. “It was a blue kind of morning and the sun shone incredibly bright,” said Watkins, recalling the memory. “It was roughly midday. I grabbed a pitchfork and began to break up some dirt when after several strokes I heard a loud clanking sound. At first, I thought it was just an old rusty piece of metal or a drink can, but as I dug further down into the soil, one of the teeth of the pitchfork caught on a pair of iron shackles,” he said. The five-pound iron shackles, Watkins would come to learn from a historian, were over 150 years old. The linked metal chains had been placed there long ago −buried by an ancestor − as a way to forget the pain and the memory that they were once actually used to bind a human being. “When I found those shackles I felt exhilarated,” said Watkins. “All the stories I’d been told by my great grandmother and others that had been passed down to me…. The evidence is staring back at me on the edge of that fork,” he said. “I showed them to Ma’ dear and her reaction was very different than mine. The discovery saddened her because unlike me she knew what they represented. She told me the story of her grandmother Rosanna and other slaves who were shackled in chains similarly to the ones I‘d found and forcefully taken to Alabama to work on plantations in Lowndes County. Life was hard for them... cruel even. When Rosanna was seven years old she liked to sit under a big oak tree and read pictures in books, since she didn’t know how to read. One day a white man saw her with the book and thought she was reading. He snatched the book from her and began beating her. He made a small brush fire and grabbed her by the arms and forced her hands into the fire. So here was a young girl who was badly burned simply for trying to read,” Watkins said. “It’s little known stories like these that show just how difficult life was under segregation, the cruelties of slavery and how much black people had to go through for something as basic as learning how to read.” For Watkins, the day he found those shackles sparked a deep desire to uncover more stories. Stories that were still unknown or stories that had long been

forgotten about what life was like for brave men, women and children − both black and white – who risked their lives for freedom. Those stories eventually became Watkins first book Shackled Again?, a collection of stories, historical documents, census records, photos, tax records, and personal accounts of those who lived and survived some of the most turbulent years in American history. He has traveled to Georgia, Florida and Alabama and conducted interviews across the country in search of these unknown stories as a way to honor those whose contributions have been lost to history. “When I started researching this book, I was amazed by the countless stories of courage in the face of almost certain death by people who were willing to challenge a segregated system and demand that America live up to its principles,” said Watkins. “The truly sad thing is that few have ever heard these stories. That’s wrong. We need to correct the terrible disservice we have done by not memorializing the sacrifices these people made.” Watkins points to stories in the book of Amy Spain a 17-year-old slave girl who was hanged just days before she was supposed to receive her freedom for expressing joy that General William T. Sherman’s army was coming to liberate slaves in South Carolina. Or, the story of the slave who fooled General James T. Wilson’s army into believing there was an outbreak of smallpox in Lowndes to prevent Marengo Plantation from being taken by the Union Army; or the tales of the hanging black mothers who were martyred for protecting their children. There are also other stories from Selma, Alabama; the town of Rosewood, and the Freedom Rides. Watkins says Shackled Again? is the first of many books he plans to write about unsung heroes. He said doing so fulfills a promise he made to his great grandmother. “Ma ‘dear was a humble person, but she was a proud person. She wasn’t famous or wellknown, in fact she lived during a time when black people had very few opportunities. She made me promise to go as far as I could go in life, never forget where I come from and to do all things she was not able to do,” he said. “Telling her stories and those of others is my way of honoring them. It’s how I’m keeping my promise to her.”


May 2016

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“Before Martin There Was Horace: Alabama’s First King of the Civil Rights Movement” By Walt Johnson

Horace King was an American architect, engineer, and bridge builder. King is considered the most respected bridge builder of the 19th century Deep South, constructing dozens of bridges in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Wikipedia Born: September 8, 1807, Cheraw, SC Died: May 28, 1885, LaGrange, GA Nationality: American As we celebrated Black History Month this February, there is no doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr. will be studied and heralded for courageously persevering in the fight for racial equality. In particular, those of us who live in and around Montgomery have a unique and strong connection with Dr. Martin Luther King since we spend every day living and working in the neighborhoods and near the landmarks where he spearheaded many of our country’s most historically significant and world-changing events. But a century before Dr. King began preaching equality, love and peace as the tenets of the Civil Rights Movement at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, or led the march from Selma to Montgomery culminating in his epic speech at the foot of the state Capital steps, there was another King from Alabama whose life became a testament for racial equality. Horace King courageously and against all odds overcame the institutional racism of his era (i.e. legalized slavery) and, armed with a brilliant mind and tremendous work ethic, became a leader in the African American community. Born a slave, Horace King reached remarkable heights as one of the nation’s finest engineers and builders in the mid to late 1800’s. Horace King is indeed one of America’s earliest and most dynamic African American leaders—and it is time that society celebrates his achievements to the extent that he deserves. Even before he was officially emancipated by the Alabama legislature on February 3, 1846, Horace King had established himself as a master engineer and architect, specializing in bridge construction and project management. Recognized by many as the Deep South’s most talented architect and engineer in the 19th century, King garnered a level of respect and acknowledgement far above other engineers and builders of the time, and he did so at a time when slavery was the deeply entrenched legal norm for blacks in his home state of Alabama. Early in his career, while he was still legally considered property and not an actual human being, Horace King relied on perseverance, natural brilliance and an uncanny skill-set to generate the construction of bridges and buildings of far greater quality than many privileged and educated whites could engineer at the time. So while the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s would use rhetoric and emotion to spark social change and racial equality, Horace King’s status as one of America’s most remarkable black leaders stemmed directly from his achievements in the field of engineering. In February of 1846, the Alabama legislature granted King his freedom, a huge turning point in his life that was made possible by the political connections of his benevolent master and eventual business partner, John Godwin. The immediate result of Horace’s emancipation was the allocation of certain rights that, although often usurped and ignored by many individuals as well as the law, would ultimately give him personal and professional stability. Often overlooked, however, is the fact that even free blacks of the 1800’s were subject to a culture of dogmatic racism and institutionalized tyranny. For Horace King, the wealth and prominence garnered as a result of his professional talent did not mitigate the harsh reality of life as a black man in mid-19th century Alabama. As his progress was perpetually undermined by the pervasive racial oppression of the time, Horace King’s ability to prosper in an economy tailored to benefit wealthy whites at the expense of blacks is truly astonishing. Horace King was born a slave on September 8, 1807 in South Carolina. As soon as Horace was old enough to begin working, John Godwin, his master and the owner of a prosperous construction business, recognized an incredible aptitude for engineering and a natural ability to organize complex building projects in young Horace. As a result, Godwin’s treatment of Horace was a complete anomaly considering the usual nature of master-slave relationships; Horace was treated with respect and given considerable liberty to proceed with construction projects in whatever way he felt was best, filling the role of esteemed employee as opposed to chattel (he was even taught to read and write as a young man—a skill that most slave owners actively and brutally sought to prevent their slaves from attaining). King eventually became Godwin’s lead supervisor and directed all the business’s major construction projects. In 1832, Godwin heard that contractors were bidding on a project to build a bridge across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, Georgia to Girard, Alabama (modern day Phenix City). Confident that he and Horace could successfully complete the task and obtain similar business in the area as a result of their work, Godwin and King moved to the Columbus/ Girard area in 1833. Just as planned, the bridge was completed with remarkable proficiency under the leadership of Horace King, which led to myriad other construction jobs in the area. Godwin’s company quickly began to thrive with King at the helm. In addition to the construction of numerous other bridges, the pair expanded their work to include building and repairing cotton warehouses, textile mills, public buildings and even homes. In fact, according the Georgia Encyclopedia the vast majority of houses in Girard were built by King and Godwin, the business being generated by a brilliant marketing ploy in which they built Godwin’s house first, then King’s, exhibiting the quality of their work all over town. Throughout the 1830’s and 1840’s King served as the superintendent and lead architect for Godwin’s construction company, managing a vast number of jobs all over the south, including major bridges at Wetumpka, Alabama, and Columbus, Mississippi. According to a 1997 article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution by Bill Osiniki, King oversaw at least eight major construction projects in the years that followed the building of the Columbus City Bridge. Largely due to King’s talent for planning and managing all types of building projects, Godwin’s company became well known throughout the South. In 1834, almost immediately after the completion of the City Bridge, Godwin accepted a contract to build forty cotton warehouses in Apalachicola, Florida. As more and more jobs were completed with King as head architect and engineer, he—along with Godwin’s company- became quite the hot commodity. During this period King led various projects in Tennessee, as well as the courthouses of Muscogee County, Georgia and Russell County, Alabama from 1839–1841, and bridges in West Point, Georgia (1838), Eufaula, Alabama (1838–39), Florence, Georgia (1840). Sometime between their initial work in Columbus and the numerous jobs completed throughout the 1840’s, Godwin not only approved but encouraged King to go to college, helping him obtain admission and safe travel to Oberlin College in Ohio, the first college in the United States to admit African-American students. King returned with a degree in engineering and a considerable amount of new building techniques and strategies. Horace King's reputation as the lead engineer and superintendent for several major projects in several different states

began to spread rapidly. As such their clientele and the nature of their jobs became more prestigious. Once such client was Robert Jemison, a Tuscaloosa lawyer and Alabama legislator, whose connections in the public and private sector opened up several new projects for Godwin and King, including the construction of roads in Georgia, more bridges spanning the Chattahoochee, and the reconstruction of the Alabama State Capitol in 1849. That year the old Alabama State Capitol burned, and King was hired to construct the framework of the new capitol building, as well as design and build the twin spiral entry staircases. For years King’s work on the Capitol was largely speculative because of a lack any documents that recorded the designer. However, in 1985 when the House and Senate Chambers were moved across the street to the Alabama State House and the Capital was closed to the public until the early 1990’s for a very comprehensive restoration project, the Alabama Historical Commission’s architectural historians compared the beams holding the stairs up that produce the “floating appearance” to the countless bridges that were constructed using the lattice truss technique that Godwin had learned in Ithiel Town while studying architecture in the Northeast as a young man. According to Lupold and French’s 2004 book entitled Bridging Deep South Rivers: The Life and Legend of Horace King, the stairs could have only been built by King because that particular interpretation of the lattice truss style is an exclusive trademark of Horace King’s work. King used his knowledge of bridgebuilding to cantilever the stairs' support beams so that the staircases appeared to "float" without any central support. Horace King used bridge-building techniques to design the spiral staircase in the Alabama State Capitol so that a central support was not required. Another finding of the architectural historians who studied the “floating stairs” was that in the time between the building of the stairs in 1849 and the restoration work of the early 1990’s, the stairs had been built so well that they had moved less than a quarter of an inch, rendering no need for any repairs, especially regarding the foundation and overall structural integrity of the stairs. Horace King had married Frances Thomas in 1839. The couple had four sons: Washington, Marshall, John, and George, and one daughter, Annie. King personally trained his sons to build covered bridges, and after the Civil War, they started the King Bridge Company. While the construction business was thriving due in large part to work of Horace King in the early to mid-1840’s, a number of unrelated investments left Godwin near bankruptcy and very ill. Because of the volatile state of his affairs, Godwin set out to have Horace King legally emancipated by the Alabama legislature which would prevent him from being considered part of his estate and potentially being claimed by creditors if Godwin did go bankrupt. Manumitting, or granting freedom to, a slave before the Civil War was very difficult, especially in a state like Alabama. But with the help of their former business partner and legislator Robert Jemison, Horace King was emancipated in 1846. In 1852, King used his freedom to purchase land near his former master. His previous lack of citizenship was the only factor keeping King from owning his own home and providing more for his family, because even before he was granted his freedom he had accumulated a good deal of money as Godwin had been paying him for years—even when King was legally still a slave. When Godwin died in 1859, King had a monument erected over his grave. In a remarkable act defying the era’s typical slave-master paradigm, King chose to pay for and leave and very loving message on the grave of his former master John Godwin, as Godwin had died so poor he could not afford headstone. King skillfully chose John Godwin’s grave and erected an ornate headstone which read: “This stone was placed here by Horace King in lasting remembrance of the love and gratitude he felt for his friend and former master.” Horace King later played an important role in the Civil War—in some cases by choice, in several other cases because he was forced to by the Confederate army. Like most southern Blacks he supported the Union. But while trying to continue running his business after the outbreak of the war, he was conscripted by the Confederate army to construct barriers in the Apalachicola River to prevent a naval attack on Columbus. He was then sent to create the same type of barriers on the Alabama River, and by the time he returned to Columbus it had become a chief shipbuilding hub for the Confederacy. Again, the Confederacy conscripted King and he was forced to use his company’s resources and workers to help build Confederate naval vessels at the Columbus Iron Works and Navy Yard. Lupold and French note that in 1863-64, King constructed a rolling mill for the Iron Works, providing cladding for Confederate ironclad warships. Moreover, King was forced to hand over his own lumber and timbers for the Navy Yard and he was also instrumental in the construction of the CSS Muscogee. The end of the war and the destruction it had left behind created a number of opportunities for King. Within six months after the war's end, King and a partner had constructed a 32,000-square-foot cotton warehouse in Columbus and King had—for the third time—rebuilt the original Columbus City Bridge. Over the next three years, King would construct three more bridges across the Chattahoochee in Columbus, a major bridge in West Point, Georgia, two large factories, and the Lee County, Alabama courthouse. When the Reconstruction Acts were implemented in 1867, King became a registrar for voters in Russell County, Alabama. In 1868 he was elected to the Alabama House as Russell County’s Representative. From slave to master builder to one of Alabama’s first black legislator’s, Horace King is no doubt a heroic figure in American history who deserves to be celebrated. Moreover, by studying his extraordinary life, students of American history gain insight into several interesting yet often overlooked period issues. And while recognition and the celebration of Horace King’s life has improved slightly in recent years (there are at least some Alabama History textbooks that mention him, though really just in the context of him being the person who built the spiraling stairs of the Capital), there remains an unsettling lack of information and celebration of the life of Horace King. In addition to increasing the amount of information about King in student textbooks, there should also be some kind of memorial to him at the state Capital (as of right now the only mention of King in the Capital is a poster by the stairs with one sentence about him that states he “may” have built the stairs). Finally, and particularly pertinent now that it is Black History month, it is necessary to point out that without people like Horace King who paved the way for the Civil Right Movement of the 1960’s, the progress our nation has made in the area of racial equality may have turned out quite differently, and Horace King deserves credit for all he did to bolster racial equality, a century before the likes of MLK and Rosa Parks took up the movement.


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Read us online at Alabama G aze tte .com

May 2016

A symbol of Freedom...A symbol of the Future!

S elma

The bridge was declared a National Historic Landmark on March 11, 2013.

The 54 mile march from Selma to the State Capitol in Montgomery in 1965 culminated a journey of a hundred years by African Americans to gain one of the most fundamental of American Freedoms;

The Edmund Pettus Bridge was the site of the conflict of Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when armed officer attacked peaceful civil rights demonstrators attempting to march to the state capitol in Montgomery. where Rev. Arms was and brought a rope that was tied into a noose. The state trooper threw it over the bars of that cell so that the noose hung in Rev. Arms’ face all day. He did it to intimidate Rev. Arms, who knew full well that they were capable of carrying out such a threat. Eventually, the sheriff released the youth, but he kept Rev. Arms in custody.

The Joanne Bland Story Joanne Bland from Selma Al. Personal Interview by Tony Watkins

Through the Eyes of A Child: “Growing up, I lived the pain and frustration of segregation. I experienced what it was like to be denied services and not be able to do the things I wanted to do just because of the color of my skin. My mother Lundie Blackmon died in the hallway of the local hospital in Selma because she needed blood and the hospital didn’t have “colored” blood. The blood had to be ordered from Birmingham, which was an hour away by bus. By the time my father got to the bus station to pick up the blood it was too late. My mother and the unborn child she was carrying had died. My grandmother Sylvia Johnson left Detroit and came home to Alabama to bury my mother and take care of me and my three sisters and brother. She just couldn’t understand how little things had changed in Selma after 35 years. She called it the “Mason Dixie Mentality.” The loss of my mother and conditions in Selma made me believe that all bad things happen in the South. In my eyes, there wasn’t anything good in Selma either. Like a lot of cities, Selma had a“Black section”, where most blacks worked, went to school, worshipped and shopped. Everything you needed, for the most part, was located in “your section.” When you ventured out of the section, you might encounter trouble. My opinions began to change when my grandmother introduced me to a woman named Amelia Boynton and her husband Sam. The couple formed the Dallas County Voting League in the 1930s. The purpose of the League was to improve conditions for the black community in Selma through political action. They recognized that by registering people to vote and by electing representatives who had the best interest of the black community to office, things could change. Mrs. Boynton soon began taking me to League meetings. I was of the generation where children were “seen and not heard.” Me and the other youth had to sit quietly while the adults strategized. My grandmother and I often went downtown and passed by Carter’s Drug Store. Carter’s had a lunch counter and I would look through the windows and stare longingly at the counter at the white children who were eating there. I saw them spinning around on the stools licking ice cream or drinking milkshakes from the beautiful glasses. I always wanted to sit in the high stool chairs and would imagine myself swinging my legs and twirling around the counter. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t sit at the counter, even though my grandmother explained it to me many times that colored children could not sit at the lunch counter. One day, my grandmother was talking to her friend in front of the store. I watched the children at the lunch counter and listened as my grandmother talked. She noticed me watching and she leaned over her shoulder and pointed at the window. “When we get our freedom, you’ll be able to do that, too!” I smiled and in my heart I believe I became a freedom fighter that day. When I was a little older, I began attending organizing meetings at First Baptist Church with my oldest sister Lynda. The non-violence resistance

Meanwhile, there was a mass meeting being held at Zion United Methodist Church that was approximately two blocks from the jail. The children ran into the church and disrupted the meeting. They told the minister, “You have to do something, now. They’re going to kill him.” The people inside the church ran over to the jail and marched around it all night in hopes that their mere presence would save Rev. Arms’ life. He was eventually released, but many of the adults were later attacked and brutally beaten by the law enforcement officers. Photo Credit: Lloyd Wolf, Selma, Alabama

philosophy was hard to accept at that age. After all, in my neighborhood, if someone hit you on the cheek, you didn‘t turn the other one. If you didn’t hit them back, they would be hitting you all day long and your head would be bopping back and forth. But as I became more involved in the movement, I slowly began to understand that violence in any form is wrong. By age 11, I was marching in protest movements. I remember what it felt like to kneel and pray on the front steps of the Dallas County Courthouse. Even though I was not old enough to register to vote, I still liked being a part of the action. We were taught to ask God to “lift the hearts of those evil men who would not let our parents vote.” But that routine got old quick. The sheriff began putting the protesters in jail. We were put in cells that were suppose to hold one or two people, but instead, me and about 40 others were jammed into the cells all at one time. If you were lucky enough to get a cell with a bed, you couldn’t sit there long because the guards took the mattress. The toilet was in the middle of the cell that’s where you didn’t want to be. As far as the food went, the guard would take pride in bringing the protesters a plate of big rock (dry unwashed beans) in the morning for breakfast. And if you thought you were not going to eat it, by that third day you would push that rock aside and hope you didn’t identify what you were crunching on. There were a lot of things done in an effort to break our spirits while we were in jail. Once we were released, we went home, took a hot bath, ate a good meal, and returned to the courthouse to continue protesting. By the time I was 11 years old I had already been to jail 13 times. In December 1964, the Dallas County Voting League wrote a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King inviting him to speak in Selma in honor of the January 1 anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Dr. King accepted the invitation and said in his speech that Selma, Alabama would be the battleground for voting rights in the United States. He was right. Things heated up even more in Selma after that speech. Dr. King brought in his lieutenants and stationed them in the surrounding counties. There were marches all around Selma and Dr. King sent Rev. James Arms to Marion, Ala., which is in Perry County, to organize the children. About 600 young protesters marched to the courthouse in support of voter rights, and all 600 were arrested. Around 3 p.m., a state trooper came into the area of the jail

At that time, a young man named Jimmie Lee Jackson ran from the church to help his 82-year-old grandfather who he saw was being beaten by a state trooper. Jimmie Lee pulled at the trooper and begged him not to hit his grandfather. He told him to just take him to jail if he had done something wrong, but don’t beat an old man. Jimmie Lee’s mother also saw the trooper beating her father too, so she ran over to help. This angered the trooper who drew back his Billy club to hit her. Jimmie Lee tried to shield his mother by putting up his hands and was shot by the officer. He died eight days later at Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma. After his death, the Dallas County Voting League decided to march from Selma to Montgomery to protest Jimmie Lee’s death and to demand the right to vote. Jimmie Lee Jackson’s death really affected us. We were afraid, but we believed in what we were doing and we were committed to it. On March 7, Bloody Sunday, John Lewis and Hosea Williams led a group of marchers down Broad Street to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We were met by a wall of policemen. John Lewis asked the policeman to let us pass. The policeman said “there won’t be any march between Selma and Montgomery, and you have three minutes to disburse and go back to your children.” The next thing I heard was a gunshot. People began to scream and run, but it was too late. The police officers began moving in from both sides and in the front and back. We were trapped. There was nowhere to go. They began beating people old, young, black and white, male and female. Blood was everywhere. Many were so injured that they were believed to be dead, but you could not stop to help them. The troopers began shooting tear gas inside the crowd. It burned my eyes and got into my lungs making it hard to breath. You couldn’t see what was in front of you, and often times you would run back into the same people you are running from. I remember it seemed like an eternity. Even now, 47 years later, I can still hear those screams. The screams were coming from fear: being afraid of the horses, of being beaten and kicked, of having bones broken, of being trampled, and of being killed. The last thing I remember that day was finding my sister who’d been beaten so severely that she suffered a head wound that required over 20 stitches. Yet, the following Tuesday, we went back to the bridge, held hands and marched with Dr. King and Rev. Ralph Abernathy across the bridge. I saw the same line of policemen and the same mob and I was scared. I even wanted to turn back, but my sister held my hand firm and in my heart I knew I was doing the right thing.”


Read us online at Alabama Gaze tte .com

May 2016

St. Paul A.M.E. Church Rev. Farrell J. Duncombe Pastor

11D

706 E. Patton Avenue Montgomery, AL (334) 286-8577

“The Slap That Made Me a Man: Rev. Fredrick Douglass Reese’s Story” By Tony Watkins Rev. Fredrick Douglass Reese is a living legend in the Civil Rights Movement, particularly in Selma, Alabama. Though his name may not be as well known as other luminaries in the movement, he was- and still is - a giant. A natural leader at an early age, he was 10, 11 and 12th grade class president at his high school. He was a person that most of his peers looked up to, but there was one incident that taught him a powerful lesson about strength and how to be a real man. It was a lesson that would influence his ideals about nonviolent resistance later on. One day at school, a 10 grade boy slapped him. Because he had a reputation for being well able to defend himself, all his peers knew what was about to happen to the foolhardy boy that slapped Fred. The boys formed a fight circle, and there in the middle of it stood Fred Reese and his opponent. But that day something came over him. He wasn’t afraid of the other boy, he simply resisted the urge to fight and made a decision to handle things another way. He walked out of that circle and for the first time he went and reported the slap to the principal. Reese says he never forgot the incident and credits it for making him the man he is today. “The measure of a man or a woman is not determined by how much he gives but how much adversity he can take and still stand,” he said. From that day on he was able to curb the urge he felt as a young man to “get back” at someone. He grew up to become a leader in the campaign for voter rights and marched with Dr. King in Selma on Bloody Sunday. His contributions to the movement for equality made him highly respected and his determination helped change the nation. “I left Wilcox County after nine years of teaching to teach at R.B. Hudson High School in Dallas County. Hudson was the high school for black students and soon after I arrived there I was elected president of the Selma City Teachers Association, which was the all-black teachers association. I found out that there were many teachers with master degrees who were not registered to vote, so as president of teachers association I made that our priority. I believed our organization could take the lead in encouraging people to register to vote because teachers were looked upon highly in the community and our influence might encourage other blacks to go register. I knew if I got them to go register, then others would follow.

Photo from Rev. Frederick D. Reese’s personal collection

In Dallas County at that time, blacks made up the largest population. Only 300 out of some 15,000 eligible blacks in Dallas County were registered to vote and I wanted to make sure we could get every eligible black voter registered. I contacted the Dallas County Voting League to engage them in holding a mass meeting that would hopefully get black citizens

Photo from Rev. Frederick D. Reese’s personal collection

interested in going down to the county court house to file their application to become a registered voter. During those days, the voter registration office was only open twice a month from 9 a.m. to Noon and 2 to 4 p.m. If you didn’t get there during those hours then you had to wait until the next month to try to register. So what we did was to get as many

Photo by: Tony Watkins

blacks as we could to stand in line around the courthouse on the registration days because we wanted to send them a strong message that we were serious and we were interested in participating in the political process that would govern our lives. People were standing in line all the way down Lauderdale Street and around Church Street to get into the courthouse and the board of registrar’s office which was inside. Of course Jim Clark who was the sheriff at that time, would be outside on the steps to make sure that everybody was in line and to try to intimidate them. Those who were able to get inside the courthouse stood in another line until a person from the registrar’s office allowed them inside to fill out a registration form. The form was long and you had to indicate your name, address, and the name of a person who could verify that you actually lived at the address that was listed on the form. A majority of the time, only about 25 blacks would even be called to go inside and be seen by the registrar to vote, and out of those 25, sometimes none of them would get to register because the registrar would provide some excuse to deny the registration. All this took place to discourage blacks and other minorities from voting. On one occasion, Sheriff Clark pushed me down the steps of the courthouse with a Billy club while I was standing in line. He told us not to block the passage way and demanded to know why we were there. I told him we were there to register to vote and exercise our right as citizens. The goal was to register to vote, but if they began arresting the teachers, that would spark attention and give our cause a lot of momentum and push the community to support our efforts. Plus, merchants knew the teachers supported many of their businesses. I remember Sheriff Clark saying, “If you’re not off these steps I am going to arrest you and your marchers”, but I said to myself that’s exactly what I want you to do because by doing this we would be hurting the merchants where we shop. My friend and fellow organizer A. J. Dirking, who had been my high school science teacher, was with me on the steps when Sheriff Clark began to push us down the steps. I remember being punched in the side and while I was on the ground with Dirking, I saw his eyes become large in surprise. He was not used to violence like this. He looked up at me and asked me “What shall we do?” I answered, “We are going back!” To that response, his eyes became even larger! But, we went back a second time and were jabbed again. By the third time, they still didn’t arrest us. Clark made his move toward us and he was suddenly pulled inside the courthouse for about three minutes and whatever was discussed inside the courthouse he came back out angrier and continued to jab and push us down the steps. Because we weren’t being arrested, I led the marchers back to Brown Chapel Church. Soon afterward, when people saw the teachers march, then the beauticians and undertakers joined in. Soon more people in the community began taking a role in the demonstrations. The next time around, when we stood in line at the courthouse, we were all given numbers to be waited on. It was small, but at least it was a sign of progress. Ironically, while we were in Selma trying to encourage blacks to register to vote, Dr. King and his wife Coretta, a native of Marion, Alabama, were in Marion trying to organize blacks to vote there. Soon after that, one of the SCLC workers, Rev. James Arms, was arrested in Marion and several members of the crowd brought us word that some of the whites were planning to kill him in the jail. Many of us drove down to Marion and held a mass meeting. We marched to the jail where Arms was being held in hopes that our presence would stop them. Now as we were coming out of the church where the mass meeting was held, a state trooper shot out the street light and the street was completely

dark. Pandemonium broke out and people began running everywhere. The state trooper and others began pursuing us with Billy clubs. Not far from the church was a little store and some people ran inside to get away of the madness. Jimmy Lee Jackson was in that store and he ran out to protect his mother and grandfather who were being beaten by one of the troopers. The trooper shot him and his body was brought to a hospital in Selma where he died. Jimmie Lee Jackson’s death was the spark that ignited the voting rights march to Montgomery. When Jimmie Lee died people came to Selma from all over everywhere – all races and all denominations came together for the first time to unify in support of our right to vote. On March 7, 1965, we attempted the first march from Selma to Montgomery, which was “Bloody Sunday.” Dr. King was not here in Selma. He was in Atlanta. Dr. King came the following Monday after the terrible violence that took place on that bridge. People began to scatter and conditions were so chaotic, so we decided not to march to Montgomery until we got the go ahead from Dr. King. They did what we called a ‘turn-around’ march. We simply walked to the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge then; we turned around at the bridge. The ones that crossed the bridge the first time were ready to complete the march the second time, but this would be a symbolic march because we were waiting for a court order of protection to proceed. People were coming into Selma from all over the country. When Judge Johnson issued the order of the court we decided to hold the march that Sunday. We marched on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday and got to the outskirts of Montgomery. There was a flat bed truck with a stage, where entertainers like Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey and Sammy Davis Jr. performed for us. The next day, we formed a line to march from St. Jude to the state capitol. I was on the front line. To my left was Hosea Williams; Dr. King and his wife Coretta; Dr. Ralph Bunch, the first African Nobel peace prize; Ralph Abernathy and his wife Juanita; John Lewis; A. Philip Randolph, who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, and Rosa Parks. That front line of the march moved all the way down Dexter Avenue to the Capitol steps to hear Dr. King speak. As I sat on that platform and looked out over that sea of humanity, a feeling of great triumphant after having gone through all the indignity and the violence, it now all seemed worth it. Soon after the march, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the 1965 Voting Rights Act. I sit here today thanking God that he had brought me through all of those trials, and tribulations. I claim no particular credit for what we accomplished, but I thank God for using me to achieve it and for the privilege of being a part of such a great movement. Now today, we have the first African-American president in Barak Obama, and it reminds me that our sacrifices were worth it.”

Tony Watkins with Rev. Frederick D. Reese


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May 2016

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