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Vernie King: To Selma and Back

Vernie King, 88, was a teacher for 50 years. She believes an education is needed to be successful in life.

By Kim Cassell

Vernie King: To Selma and Back

REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.’S ASSASSINATION ON APRIL 4, 1968, WAS A HUGE BLOW TO ALL WHO REVERED AND FOLLOWED HIM IN HIS QUEST FOR EQUAL RIGHTS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS.

Having widened his scope to awareness of issues affecting all races – the Vietnam War, unemployment, poverty – in addition to black American repression, this non-violent Baptist minister had been in Memphis, TN, to support sanitation workers on strike.

He gave one of his most iconic speeches while there, saying, “I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

King’s next march was to have been in Washington, DC, where he would address Congress. He didn’t make it out of Memphis, however, shot and killed by James Earl Ray. King had even canceled a visit to Charlotte scheduled for the day he was ultimately assassinated, to remain in Memphis.

Within days after his death – and during the widespread riots that ensued – then-President Lyndon Johnson fast-tracked the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968), which he signed into law on April 11, 1968. He called it “a fitting legacy to King and his life’s work,” according to history.com.

The Fair Housing Act amended the Civil Rights Act of 1866, “extending the protection to color, religion, sex and national origin,” Wikipedia.org states.

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Vernie King graduated from Barber-Scotia College in Concord
Photo Courtesy: Vernie King

Vernie King graduated from Barber-Scotia College in Concord.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was “the law that declared all people born in the United States are legally citizens. This means they could rent, hold, sell and buy property. This law was meant to help former slaves, and those who refused to grant these new rights to slaves were guilty and punishable under law. The penalty was a fine of

$1,000 or a maximum of one year in jail,” Wikipedia.org adds.

Cabarrus County native, Vernie King, 88, remembers that era of unrest well.

“After high school, I attended Immanuel Lutheran College and Seminary in Greensboro, NC, and received a degree in education. While in college, civil rights champion, Rosa J. Young, was encouraged by Dr. Booker T. Washington to write letters to colleges in the North asking them to encourage the graduates to consider teaching in what was known as ‘Alabama’s Black Belt’ because there was a shortage of teachers.

“I and three of my classmates decided to see another part of the country and boarded a train in 1951 for Selma, Alabama. In the 1950s, Alabama was very different from Concord. We stayed with church members and on the campus of the Alabama Lutheran Academy & Junior College. I taught third grade for two years for very little money.

“While in Selma, I taught Reverend

Ralph Abernathy’s son. They lived across the street from the school. Reverend Abernathy was instrumental in getting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Selma and help organize the people.”

In fact, Ralph D. Abernathy – Dr. King’s Mentor – helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with Dr. King. It grew to become a renowned civil rights group in the South.

“I had very little interaction with the community other than the students and church members because I lived on the college campus,”Vernie King explains. “During that time, Dr. King was a young pastor following in the footsteps of his father. Although I knew he was to help with civil and voting rights in Selma, I had returned to Concord and was not there when they marched across Pettus Bridge.

King refers to the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, also called Bloody Sunday. “In March of that year, in an effort to register

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black voters in the South, protesters marching the 54-mile route from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery were confronted with deadly violence from local authorities and white vigilante groups,” history.com says. “The historic march, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s participation in it, raised awareness of the difficulties faced by black voters and the need for a national Voting Rights Act.”

“When I returned to Concord, I married William King from Southern Pines, NC. He attended NC A&T State University; I went to Barber-Scotia. I also received a master’s degree from UNCC,” Vernie King explains.

“In 1963, Dr. King walked through Concord – on Union Street to Cabarrus Avenue – stopping at Barber-Scotia College as he returned to Georgia from the march in Washington, DC. He was stopping at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) near I-85. He ate lunch at Scotia, then talked to students and community members. My children met him. He then walked to Warren Coleman Boulevard and rode to Charlotte.”

Dr. King stopped in Concord and Charlotte after this March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963

History.com says, “The March on Washington was a massive protest march that occurred in August 1963, when some 250,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Also known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the event aimed to draw attention to continuing challenges and inequalities faced by African Americans a century after emancipation. It was also the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s now-iconic I Have A Dream speech.

“When I started teaching at Grace Lutheran Parochial and Logan, it was a dream come true,” Vernie King continues. Being able to work at the schools I had attended with some of my former teachers was wonderful. My children attended where I worked, along with other family and friends.

“During that time many teachers

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stopped in Concord and Charlotte after this March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

lived in the neighborhood where they worked and attended churches in the area. So we saw children at every turn, we visited homes of students. I taught long enough that

I taught my classmates’ children and grandchildren.

“We had two school systems in Concord when I started teaching: Concord City and Cabarrus County.

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The original Poor People’s Campaign (December 4, 1967-June 19, 1968) was formed to focus on unemployment, poverty and the lack of housing for the poor in the U.S. King said in 1967, “We are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society.”

Prior to closing Logan, they moved some teachers from Logan to other schools in the city. I was moved with Alice Steele Robinson to Long Elementary. Later, I was transferred to R. Brown McAllister where I retired in 2001.

“From 1951 to 2001, I taught students to set goals and try to achieve them, and to develop a thirst for knowledge. I also tutored students in my home and church. We opened our home to students in the community who needed a place to stay, to use our encyclopedias and other resources, as well as homebound students.

“In the ‘60s, there were very few activities for young people, so my husband put up a basketball goal next to our house and young people would

play ‘til it was too dark to see. We also allowed young people to have dances in our basement, and musical groups led by Johnny Jones, Kenneth Hosten and Terry Davis would practice in the basement. And the Masonic Lodge would sell food and give out school supplies in our front yard.

“I was raised in a civic-minded family who always gave back and supported their church and community. I have always believed that you need an education to be successful in life, not necessarily a college degree but at least finish high school. We raised our children to feel the same way.

“We have three children: Samuel, Wilma and Teresa. I encouraged my children, nieces and nephews to finish high school and go to college, and they

did. And I am proud to say each has continued the tradition in their major fields, such as education, social work and recreation.

“I have been active in Cabarrus County, involved in political activities working at the polls during elections; neighborhood and civic events; church and religious work; and mentoring and volunteering on many boards and organizations. God has blessed me with the ability to do many things, and my life has been full of giving and sharing my talents.

“Fifteen years ago I returned to Selma and saw one of my former students – Martha Jones. She remembered me and introduced me to her family. She also located other students I had taught; it was a wonderful reunion. I like to think all my students remember me fondly, as I remember them.”

On January 22, 2013, a dedication ceremony was held at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial built at the intersection of Cabarrus Avenue and Old Charlotte Road in Concord.

The group of 75 that attended that day read aloud, “We gather in support of the community that is represented here and beyond. We stand in support of women, children, the disabled, the poor, the underprivileged, the undeserved, the ignored, the slighted, those of different racial and ethnic minorities, for those who speak different languages and have different cultures – for all the people who have been marginalized.” n

The original Poor People's Campaign (Dec. 4, 1967 - June 19, 1968) was formed to focus on unemployment, poverty and the lack of housing for the poor in the U.S. King said in 1967, "We are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society."
Photo Courtesy: Poor People's Campaign

The Link Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

By Sydney Boatman, PharmacistSponsored by Cannon Pharmacy

Did you know that diabetes and heart disease are closely connected? Almost 4 million adults in North Carolina have diabetes or pre-diabetes, and it is one of the top 10 reasons for American deaths; however, most don’t realize these deaths are from related heart diseases.

When you eat food, sugar is absorbed into your blood. From there, your muscles use this sugar for energy. When you have diabetes, your muscles have a difficult time with this, which leads to a lot of sugar floating around in your bloodstream not knowing where to go. All this sugar can be very damaging over time – especially to your heart.

Here are just a few tips to keep your heart healthy with diabetes:

• Get that blood flowing: Staying active is top of this list because it will help you lose weight and directly lower your blood sugar while your muscles use the sugar for energy.

• Keep tabs on the silent killers: High blood pressure and cholesterol are sometimes referred to as the silent killers of the health world. You can go years with no symptoms, then experience a severe heart attack or stroke with no warning. Because diabetes increases your risk of both these events, it is most important to get regular checks and discuss treatment with your doctors.

• Remember to take that pill: Missing your medication is much more harmful than most realize. You may not notice a change when you miss a dose of your blood pressure medicine, but these medicines are keeping you alive and away from the hospital.

• Remembering your New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier: Nutrition

is a complicated subject that should be individualized based on your lifestyle. Fortunately, many doctor’s offices in Cabarrus County offer nutrition

counseling by pharmacists with specialties in diabetes care at no cost. These nutrition specialists can help you create a plan that works for you. n

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