Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Atlanta newspaper travel story notes importance of Selma

A travel story in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution relates the history of the Selma March of 1965 and some of the landmarks of that march which are still available to those who want to see them:

The events of March 1965, however, left a more residual mark on this small city in the heart of Dixie. One hundred years after the Confederacy lost the “Battle of Selma,” nonviolent protesters determined to gain equal access to the voting booth staged a march to Montgomery that met violent resistance at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The images broadcast worldwide forever ingrained the term “Bloody Sunday” in the national conscience. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the ensuing peaceful march to the state capital, which ended up turning the tide of American history. Edifices of this glorious and infamous past remain intact, including that famous bridge. The highway into town from Montgomery — U.S. 80 — is now a National Historic Trail.

(Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta (right) are among those leading the Selma march for voting rights. Associated Press photo)

Mississippi FBI building may be named after slain civil rights workers

The new FBI headquarters in Mississippi may be named after slain civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, who were murdered during Freedom Summer in 1964:

The Jackson City Council will vote today on a resolution supporting the move. Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were killed June 21, 1964, while participating in Freedom Summer, an intensive voter registration drive aimed at breaking Mississippi's resistance to civil rights for African Americans.

The three men were investigating the burning of a black church in Neshoba County when they were arrested by a county deputy, held for several hours and then disappeared.

Their bodies were discovered weeks later. National reaction to the deaths was used as leverage for the passage of landmark civil rights legislation, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A similar resolution to name the FBI field office in Jackson, the state capital, after the civil rights workers was passed by the Hinds County Board of Supervisors in August after officials with the Mississippi branch of the NAACP approached Supervisor George Smith.

"It could send a signal to the rest of the nation that we at least understand some of the things that have happened in the past and realize that this is in tune of correcting some of the negatives back then," Smith said.

FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said the agency will defer to Congress for a final decision on naming the building, which the federal government is leasing.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Former attorney for Malcolm X dead at 89

Percy Sutton, the former attorney for Malcolm X, died Saturday at age 89. The following statement was issued by the White House:

His life-long dedication to the fight for civil rights and his career as an entrepreneur and public servant made the rise of countless young African-Americans possible," Obama said.

A native of Texas, Sutton served as an intelligence officer for the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II before becoming an attorney. He represented Malcolm X until the onetime Nation of Islam leader's 1965 assassination, and continued to represent his widow, Betty Shabazz, until her death in a 1997 fire. He then defended Shabazz's 12-year-old grandson, who admitted to starting the fatal blaze.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Emmett Till's casket donated to the Smithsonian

The original casket of Emmett Till, the 13-year-old Chicago youth whose 1955 murder in Money, Mississippi helped spark the civil rights movement, has been donated to the Smithsonian Institution:

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 27, 2009

The National Museum of African American History and Culture has acquired the original casket of Emmett Till, whose brutal murder in 1955 energized the modern civil rights movement.

The official announcement of the donation -- made by the Till family to the Smithsonian Institution -- will be made Friday, the 54th anniversary of his death, during a memorial service in Chicago, museum officials confirmed.

What some might consider a horrific artifact would seem to be a necessary addition to the sweeping story of black triumphs and tragedies that the museum plans to tell when it opens on the Mall in 2015. But Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum's director, said Wednesday he had much to consider before saying yes to the acquisition.

"The family wanted to preserve it in a respectful way," Bunch said. "But it did raise philosophical, ethical and sensational issues that I wanted to think about. And I wanted to consider them as a museum director, as a historian, and someone who has to raise funds. I wanted to understand all the hurdles."

Almost every museum wants an artifact that stops the visitor. The item can make you pray, shudder, cry, think. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has several, from a railroad car that transported Jews to concentration camps to piles of shoes worn by victims. In a tiny civil rights museum in Savannah, Ga., a partially burned cross is on display.

Bunch had no doubts about the casket's significance. "The story of Emmett Till is one of the most important of the last half of the 20th century. And an important element was the casket," he says.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

South Middle School eighth grader lands interview with Little Rock Nine member

Mr. Randy Turner's eighth grade communication arts classes are researching the American Civil Rights Movement during the third quarter, and one student has gone above and beyond in collecting information for her project.

Karissa Dowell recently landed an e-mail interview with Terrence Roberts, one of the Little Rock Nine, the students who successfully integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957.

The text of the letter is featured below:

1. What was the first day like for you at Central?

The first day was frightening and scary for the most part. Several students left class when I walked in saying they refused to go to school with niggers. I was on guard all day because many students pushed and shoved me around, and called me names.

2. What was it like in the classroom? How did teachers act or treat you?

The classrooms were scary places since the same kind of behavior mentioned above was present there as well. In the main, the teachers were not happy to see the nine of us. My English teacher asked me why I wanted to go to their school since I had a school of my own. A few teachers were supportive, and tried to make life easier for us by telling the white students not to bother us.

3. Were you able to make any white friends at Central?

Any white kid who tried to be our friend was immediately saddled with the label “nigger lover” and became a target for violence. Since the reward for being friendly toward us was to get beaten up, there were only a few students who chose to do so.

4. What did the people from your old school think when you were going to Central?

Now, while I don’t know the thoughts of every single person, I do know that many of my former schoolmates were very concerned about our welfare and wanted to help out in any way they could.

5. What was the overall opinion of white people before and after you entered Central?

Again, it is difficult to talk about the overall opinion since opinion varies so much. Perhaps it is best to say that the majority of white people were not in favor of desegregation.

6. Did you ever have to physically fight to defend yourself at Central because of your race?

We chose to adopt a philosophy of nonviolence so we purposely did not fight (in the main). One of our group, Minnijean Brown, was kicked out of school for fighting, so yes, there were such times.

7. Do you still keep in contact with the other members of the Little Rock Nine?

Yes. In fact, we are all Board Members of the Little Rock Nine Foundation which can be located on the web at: www.

8. What was the biggest learning experience you gained from the events at Central?

The biggest thing was that people will go to great lengths to oppose changes that are not seen as favorable to them.

9. How long was it before the students started to get used to you?

Since the Governor closed all high schools in Little Rock during the next school year, there was not much opportunity for any of us, white or black, to get used to each other.

10. What is the state of affairs in relation to race relations today?

Unfortunately this country has chosen not to confront the issues of racism and for that reason we are still plagued by this virus, if you will. In order to combat racism, we must first admit that there is a problem; that part has yet to be accomplished. Indeed, there are many voices saying that racism has run its course and is no longer alive. The truth is, I fear, much different.

11. Who were your role models during that time?

My role models included anyone who made healthy life choices; I watched closely to see who in my world made such choices.

12. How did you find the courage to continue?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that I knew what we were doing was the right thing to do; you will be surprised to find how much you can accomplish when you know without doubt that your mission is righteous. Also, I knew as well that hundreds of people had died in the fight for justice before I even arrived on the scene. I could not disrespect their efforts by saying no to my opportunity to be involved in the same struggle.

13. Where did you go to escape the tension during that year?

Often I would retreat to the school library where the librarian maintained a rather strict environment; no nonsense was allowed. Also, since the nine of us had to sign an affidavit declaring that we would not engage in any extracurricular activities at Central, we could leave school after classes and escape the tension that way as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Commemorating the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.


In August of 1963, a massive march on Washington, D.C., was organized to express outrage at the prevalence of racism in the United States and to push for national desegregation. At this event, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In this speech, he described his hopes for our great nation to be a nation of equality — a county united as one people. On that day, he spoke for every man and woman of every creed, color, and culture. He was the voice for every individual who had a dream.

Monday, January 19th is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This is a day set aside for reflection on the life of this influential figure in our nation’s history as well as the ideals he stood for. It is a day for us to commemorate the legacy of Dr. King and serves as a reminder of how he was a model of courage, truth, justice, compassion, humility, and service.

On April 3, 1968 Dr. King delivered a speech in Memphis, Tenn. in which he said, “I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and 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.”

The following evening, Dr. King was on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. At 6:01 p.m., a shot rang out, killing the man who inspired so many with his dedication to nonviolent demonstrations. Even after his death, however, his work continued as many of his followers were further inspired to continue the national movement for a society blind to the color of people’s skin.

During the nearly four decades since Dr. King’s death, our country has made great strides towards equality for all. His work continues to inspire many to fight for human rights and the end of all prejudices.

(The author, Jason Crowell, is a state senator from Cape Girardeau, Mo. This was his column for the week of Jan. 12-18.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Civil rights lawyer dead at 78

Civil rights lawyer Charles Morgan died Thursday at age 78. The following remembrance of Mr. Morgan comes from the Tuscaloosa News:

Charles Morgan was great lawyer, even greater man

There was a saying in the white community of supporters of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s, when the likes of Alabama Gov. George Wallace and Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett defiantly ruled their states and thugs like Bull Conner in Birmingham and Jim Clark in Selma terrorized the majority population:

It was a time when “it took guts to have guts.”

Charles Morgan Jr., who died Thursday at the age of 78, was such a man of formidable intestinal fortitude.

A Birmingham attorney in the early sixties, Morgan defended and represented victims of the Jim Crow segregationist polices of the era, first in Alabama, and later in Georgia, where he opened the first American Civil Liberties Union southern regional office in 1964.

One of his many landmark litigations was Reynolds vs. Sims, an Alabama case dealing with the apportionment of the state legislature that he won in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964.

Ever heard of the “one-man, one-vote” principle? Well, it was established in part by the precedents set in that case, which dealt a decisive blow to the rural lawmakers who wielded power out of proportion to the number of people they represented.

“It ended gerrymandering,” Richard Cohen, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery told the Associated Press last week after Morgan passed away in Destin, Fla., the victim of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. “It became a bedrock principle for voting rights. It changed the complexion of the South and the country.

“Chuck was a true giant of the legal profession,” Cohen added. “He was a creative genius and was relentless in his pursuit of our Constitution. He was also an incredibly brave and eloquent man.”

Morgan also successfully represented such high profile defendants as Muhammad Ali in his fight against draft evasion charges and Julian Bond, currently the chairman of the NAACP’s national board, when the Georgia Legislature refused to seat him because of a statement he made opposing the Vietnam War.

A graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law, Morgan did not spend much time in Tuscaloosa over the course of the rest of his life, but most people who have eaten at Chuck’s Fish restaurant on Greensboro Avenue downtown know that it is named in his honor by his son, Charles Morgan III, who also owns restaurants in the Destin area.

“My father believed in law and order, but he believed in using the law to change the order,” the younger Morgan, who has involved himself in community betterment projects in Florida and Tuscaloosa, said after his father died. “He was a hell of a man. I wish he could have held out to see Barack Obama get into office. He would have loved to have seen that.”

Indeed, Charles Morgan Sr. helped make Obama’s election possible.

Information about research project given

The annual third quarter research project on the Civil Rights Movement is scheduled to begin Monday in Mr. Turner's eighth grade communication arts classes at South Middle School.


-Thesis Statement 100 points
-First Draft 200 points
-Oral Presentation 100 points
-Multimedia Presentation 100 points
-Final Draft 300 points
-Bibliography 100 points
-Meeting Deadlines 100 points


First Week- Research in MAC Lab

Second Week- Two days research in library, organize notes, materials, write thesis statement.

Third Week- Work on first draft on your own. Classroom time will be used for MAP Preparation activities.

Fourth Week- Work on first draft on your own. Classroom time will be used for MAP Preparation Activities.

Fifth Week- First Draft is Due on Monday. One day in lab to work on multimedia presentation for those who need it. Oral presentations will be given.

Sixth Week- Multi-Media Presentations. Work on final draft, bibliography.

Seventh Week- Finish any oral or multi-media presentations that have not been completed. Work on final draft, bibliography.

Eighth Week- Turn in final draft, bibliography. Project concludes.


Thesis Statement- Friday, January 23

First Draft- Monday, February 9

Final Draft, Bibliography Monday, March 2

Research Schedule

Monday, January 12- MAC Lab, No Printing, No use of Google or other search engines. Use links on Room 210 Civil Rights.

Tuesday, January 13- MAC Lab, Printing Allowed, No use of Google or other search engines. Use links on Room 210 Civil Rights.

Wednesday, January 14-Friday, January 16- MAC Lab, Printing Allowed, Search engines may be used. Begin using Google Book Search, Google Government Search, if needed.

Tuesday, January 20-Wednesday, January 21- Library

Thursday, January 22- Books may be checked out from library. First come, first served.

MAC LAB will be open before and after school most days. Mr. Biggers will also have his room open some days before and after school.