Monday, February 28, 2011

Montreal honeymoon home of Jackie and Rachel Robinson recognized for historical significance

A ceremony is planned today in Montreal to commemorate the small apartment where Jackie Robinson and his wife, Rachel, spent their honeymoon in 1946:

A commemorative plaque will be unveiled Monday at the lower-level duplex apartment that was home to the couple in the summer of 1946 when Mr. Robinson played for the minor-league Montreal Royals, less than a year before he broke the race barrier in what later became known as “baseball’s great experiment.”

Ms. Robinson, now 88, remembers their time in that apartment, just months after she and Jackie were married, as a honeymoon. They were welcomed by the predominantly white neighbourhood, which became a refuge from the racially charged taunts Mr. Robinson endured on the road.

“You can't make [enough] of the house because it's where the experiment started and the experiment went on to be a national success, so it led to something,” Ms. Robinson said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Myrlie Evers-Williams elected to NAACP Board

Civil rights activist Myrlie-Evers Williams, the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, has been elected to the Oregon NAACP Board of Directors. From the Portland Oregonian:

Evers-Williams moved with her children to California and emerged as a civil rights activist in her own right. She made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1970.

In 1976, Evers-Williams married Walter Williams, a labor and civil rights activist. The couple moved to Bend in 1989. She joined the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and was elected chairwoman in 1995, but did not run for re-election in 1998.

She established the Medgar Evers Institute in Jackson, Miss.

From PBS' "Supreme Court: Brown v. Board of Education

"Freedom Riders" to debut on PBS American Experience this week

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Movie company hopes to use Lorraine Motel location shoot for film on Martin Luther King's final days

The Nashville Business Journal reports Universal Pictures is attempting to do part of the filming for its new movie on the final days of Martin Luther King at the remnants of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1068:

The balcony where King was shot has been preserved and is part of the National Civil Rights Museum, which walks visitors through the struggle for civil rights before showing them the room where King stayed at the Lorraine Motel and the spot where he was assassinated.

Universal is scouting other locations in Memphis, as well.

Tapes reveals President Johnson's plans for Thurgood Marshall

President Lyndon B. Johnson's plan to make Thurgood Marshall the first African American on the U. S. Supreme Court is revealed in once secret tapes revealed by CNN:

Johnson’s plan was to appoint Marshall as solicitor general, where he would get the experience that would make him one of the best-qualified candidates ever to the U.S. Supreme Court, CNN reports. The tapes were released by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, which is analyzing and transcribing secret White House tapes of several presidents.

Johnson talked about the plan with his former attorney general, Nicholas Katzenbach. "I want to build [Marshall] up where he's impenetrable when he becomes a Supreme Court justice,” Johnson said. The president said he wasn’t sure if he would appoint Marshall, “but he's damn sure going to be qualified." Johnson appeared more sure of the future appointment in a conversation with John Kenneth Galbraith, however. The plan, the president said, was to nominate Marshall after he was solicitor general for a year or two and a vacancy opened up.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Assassination of Medgar Evers prompted Bill Russell to help in Mississippi

Today's Seattle Times features a story on how former Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last week, was prompted by the assassination of Medgar Evers to do civil rights work in Mississippi:

And far away from the madness of Jackson, Boston center Bill Russell, who recently had led the Celtics to their fifth straight NBA championship and had won his third-consecutive MVP award, heard the news, felt the rising bile of pain, and the anger, and knew he had to go to Jackson, knew he had to do something, anything, to keep alive Evers' fight for freedom.

"He called me up and asked me what he could do to help," recalled Charles Evers, Medgar's older brother, speaking by telephone from Jackson last week.

"Get down here," Evers told Russell, "and we'll open one of the playgrounds and we'll have the first integrated basketball camp in Mississippi."

Evers knew he was asking a lot. He was asking Russell, one of the country's most prominent African-Americans, to risk his life, to teach basketball to kids — black and white — in the racial tinder box that was Jackson.

"It was totally segregated down here then," Evers said. "We couldn't drink out of the water fountains because we were Negroes. We couldn't use the restroom facilities because we were Negroes. We couldn't even register to vote.

"But because people like Bill were willing to come here and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us, we knew we could change all of those silly laws. Standing side-by-side he helped make all of the changes that have happened. If Bill would come back down here now, he wouldn't believe it was the same Mississippi."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Joan Browning recalls Freedom Rides

During an appearance at Marshall University this week, former Freedom Rider Joan Browning recalled her experiences:

Joan C. Browning rode public transportation in 1961 to ensure the 1960 Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation in public facilities was being enforced. Her last trip was on Nov. 1 aboard a train headed for Albany, Ga.

"Nine of us got on a train in Atlanta heading for Albany," Browning said. "I was the last person chosen for that ride, so I call myself the last Freedom Rider."

Browning said she was the only white female imprisoned for 10 days following the last ride and had a cell all to herself while all of the African-American females were packed into one cell.

"We had agreed to all stay in jail until freedom came," Browning said. "But we decided I should be bailed out because some of the white men in the community had made some threatening remarks."

Browning said the group was first charged with conspiracy to overthrow Georgia's state government, but it was reduced to disturbing the peace six months later.

"You have to find something to stand up for in order to put joy in your life," Browning said

Thursday, February 17, 2011

BIll Russell, first African American NBA coach receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

John Lewis: To be honored by first African American president is unbelievable

New collection of writings by Thurgood Marshall published

A new book, Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall, by Michael G. Long is reviewed on the Voice of America website:

"Martin Luther King Jr. emerges as the most important civil rights leader in the latter half of the 20th century exactly because of Thurgood Marshall’s work in the 20 years that led up to 1957," says Michael Long, author of "Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall." "It’s unfair to believe that King had just emerged from nowhere. He emerged out of a culture and society that had already begun to break down racial discrimination. In fact, Rosa Parks was a member of the NAACP."

The letters Marshall wrote between 1936 and 1957 reveal the depth and breadth of his civil rights work.

"The basic idea behind the letters is this, let’s get rid of segregation," says Long. "He played a role of African-American male in the south at the time. He ate in segregated restaurants. He drove in segregated taxis. He played the role of the segregated black man in order to further the cause. He never wanted to draw attention to himself as he put it. He wanted to fight for the cause."

President Clinton, Little Rock Nine to be at Clinton Center Saturday

Former President Bill Clinton and the Little Rock Nine will be at the Clinton Center in Little Rock Saturday for the opening of a display on the Congressional Medal of Honors received by the first nine African American students to attend Central High School.

Admission is free. Reservations are required; call (501) 748-0425.

St. Louis nun recalls Selma march

The Webster University Journal includes an article featuring Sister Antona Ebo of the St. Mary Franciscan order and her role in the Selma March of 1965:

She said the reason she went to Selma was because she truly believed that every person of any race was her equal. She also felt that if she truly was going to make a difference to the people she slept next to every night, she needed to physically be there.

"Our bodies were on the line, not just our voices," Christopher said. "We didn't just 'talk-the-talk.' "

Growing up, her father was a butcher who had black co-workers. Her mother, a factory worker, had a black boss. Christopher said there were no cruel words said about other races in her house while she was a child. One evening, her mother's boss invited the family over for dinner.

She remembers the night being very fun and that everyone had a peaceful time together enjoying good food and conversation like "normal" people do. This night, along with the beliefs she was raised with, founded her view of other races.

Christopher received permission from Father Shocklee, who asked permission from Cardinal Joseph E. Ritter for Christopher to march. She would not be going alone. Along with fellow Loretto sister, Sister Christine Mary, four nuns from different orders would join her. According to PBS' "Sisters of Selma" documentary, these six women were the first nuns to be involved in these marches.

Hundreds of people marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. State troopers met them and demanded they turn around go home. When the leaders of Bloody Sunday's march respectfully rejected their demand, the troopers began to beat the marchers and fire tear gas. Dozens were hospitalized and the media covered it for the nation to see.

"Sure, you have a little bit of fear, because you don't know what's going to happen," Christopher said. "It's the fear of the unknown."

Bloody Sunday's events put fear in the hearts of all the sisters.

Sister Antona Ebo's fear was more intense than it was for the other sisters.

"I knew that if we were arrested, I would get separated from the other sisters, in a different jail since I'm black," Ebo said. "Who knows what else would have happened to me."

With people still injured from Bloody Sunday, the sisters marched with the crowd alongside Martin Luther King Jr. on March 9 and were again faced with state troopers. The protesters tried to attain a court order that would allow them to march without interference. However, Federal District Court Judge Frank Johnson issued a restraining order saying the protesters, now numbering in the thousands, could only march to the bridge where Bloody Sunday took place until he could have additional hearings.

While marching, only two days after the horrific events of March 9, the people kept strong, Christopher said.

"There wasn't any fear among the people," Christopher said. "We stood in front of troopers with gas masks, but no one seemed afraid. We wanted to do whatever we could to make this right. If they wanted to throw tear gas in the crowd, so be it."

The violence was avoided as the crowd turned back at the bridge. The Loretto sisters left after the second march and wearily returned to St. Louis.

"Some people ask why I left after only one march," Christopher said. "But I felt that my march was a gateway for other marches to come."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lewis: I wish Dr. King was here

From Fox News blog post on Rep. John Lewis receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

"I wish Dr. King was here."

That was the thought going through the mind of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., while waiting to receive his Medal of Freedom from President Obama in the East Room of the White House.

Lewis, spoke to reporters in the White House Briefing Room still wearing his medal with a cobalt blue ribbon. He humbly described the day.

"It's a special honor," Lewis said. "I feel more than lucky; very blessed to receive this medal this honor from the first African American president."

Ohio minister talks about role in Freedom Summer