Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Freedom Riders to appear on Oprah

As part of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, some of those who participated in the historic civil rights actions will appear on the Oprah show:

This week Oprah Winfrey will tape a TV show in Chicago with some of the Freedom Riders who long ago trekked courageously to the South to press for civil rights.

Imagine, two of those surviving activists from the front lines in the fight against segregation are Santa Rosans.

Retired pastor Francis Geddes, 87, is one. Geddes, now a member of Church of the Incarnation, was locked up in 1961 as part of an interracial group that agitated to integrate the coffee shop at Mississippi's Jackson Airport.

“What I learned from being jailed in Jackson,” he said as he prepared to fly to meet Oprah and his fellow Freedom Riders, “is that I didn't have to be afraid of anything else in my life.”

CHICAGO BECKONS also to Santa Rosa's George Houser, who first opposed Jim Crow in the South not with the Freedom Rides that began on May 4 of 1961 but with the 1947 anti-segregation campaign that inspired the Rides.

Houser, who's 94, was a leader of the ‘47 Journey of Reconciliation. He and late African-American civil rights leader Bayard Rustin and others boarded Trailways and Greyhound coaches in Southern states to test the Supreme Court's 1946 landmark decision barring segregation on interstate buses.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

$550,000 grant to be used to preserve "Eyes on the Prize" footage

Unedited interviews of footage from the groundbreaking civil rights documentary "Eyes on the Prize" will be preserved, thanks to a $550,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to Washington University:

The original documentary film and interview footage were donated to the University Libraries in 2001 as part of the Henry Hampton Collection. The collection is one of the largest archives of civil rights media in the United States and contains materials on other topics as well.

“Hampton’s Eyes on the Prize remains the definitive work on the American civil rights movement, even more than 20 years after its release,” says Shirley K. Baker, vice chancellor for scholarly resources and dean of University Libraries. “With the generous assistance of the Mellon Foundation, Washington University can continue to protect and preserve these priceless archives for students, scholars and the general public for generations to come.”

Among those interviewed for the documentary were Curtis Jones, cousin of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy murdered in Mississippi in 1955; Coretta Scott King, wife of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; and Burke Marshall, head of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Kennedy administration. The footage from all these interviews and many more is held at the Film & Media Archive, a unit of the University Libraries’ Department of Special Collections.

“These records are a crucial part of Americans’ cultural history and heritage,” says James E. McLeod, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and vice chancellor for students. “This partnership between Washington University and the Mellon Foundation ensures that both the documentary itself, along with the interviews that gave life to its stories, will always be available as a source of information and inspiration.”

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Robert Redford to play Branch Rickey in new Jackie Robinson film

Robert Redford, star of one of the all-time great baseball movies, The Natural, will return to the diamond as star of a new biography of Jackie Robinson:

The focus of the story is about the relationship between Robinson and Rickey, who is responsible for integrating the sport in America, as well as other innovations including the use of batting helmets. Author Jimmy Breslin's new biography of Rickey was released March 17.

"No one really knows the Rickey part, the political maneuvers and the partnership they had to share," Redford told the Los Angeles Times, which reported the announcement. "It's the story underneath the story you thought you knew."

Freedom Rider Joan Mulholland speaks at Central Virginia Community College

As the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Freedom Rides, continues, Freedom Rider Joan Mulholland shared her experiences with an audience at Central Virginia Community College this week:
“I was a white Southerner and I felt we had a responsible to live out the best of our culture, to do unto others that which is done unto you,” said Mulholland during the panel discussion. “I just felt that things were terribly wrong, we were not practicing what we preached.”

Comprised mostly of black and white college students, the Freedom Riders travelled on trains and buses across the South in 1961, determined to break down the barriers of segregation. They journeyed through Virginia on their way to the deep South, including one stop in Lynchburg.

Wearing a T-shirt bearing the word “ERACISM,” Mulholland gave a first-hand account of her role in the Freedom Rides, which got her arrested and jailed at Mississippi’s notorious Parchman State Prison Farm.

“Fear is counterproductive and it slows you down from doing what needs doing,” Mulholland said.

Half a century later, Mulholland is a mother of five sons and has taught for 30 years in Arlington County public schools. She calls her decision to join the Freedom Rides one of the most important in her life.

“The ’50s had been really boring, but suddenly it was like wildfire and who knows what will start a wildfire,” she said, urging the younger generation to continue the fight against prejudice. “Something will happen. Be ready for it and look out for it,"

David French, surgeon for the civil rights movement, dies

David French, a surgeon who helped victims of racial violence during civil rights demonstrations of the '60s, died March 31 at age 86:

The health care provider and public servant organized first-aid efforts during major civil rights marches, including the historic –and bloody--voting rights march from Selma, Ala. to that state’s capitol in Montgomery in 1965 that was led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

During one Mississippi protest in 1966, French and his wife Carolyn Howard used their family van as an ambulance to provide first aid for casualties when the non-violent demonstrators were attacked by locals, including police, opposed to the civil rights march on the state capitol, according to a Washington Post obituary.

Friday, April 8, 2011

60 Minutes plans stories on unsolved 1964 murder of Louis Alen

On his blog, Jackson Clarion-Ledger reporter Jerry Mitchell, who has been instrumental in bringing attention to unsolved murders of the civil rights era, notes that CBS' 60 Minutes is doing a piece on the unsolved 1964 murder of Louis Allen:

Hank Allen, the son of Louis Allen, believes retired sheriff Daniel Jones had something to do with his father’s 1964 ambush killing.

60 Minutes is airing a story on the cold case at 6 p.m. CDT Sunday, April 10, on CBS.

FBI records from 1964 name Jones as a suspected member of the Ku Klux Klan — an allegation Jones later admitted to the FBI.

In an interview with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, Jones was asked if he could say he had nothing to do with the murder.

“No sir, I wasn’t involved in it,” he responded.

Told he could clear the whole thing up by taking a lie detector test, Jones replied to Kroft, “Well, then it ain’t getting cleared up.”

A preview of the program can be found at this link.

Monday, April 4, 2011

New book names trigger man in Malcolm X assassination

A new book published today offers startling revelations about the assassination of Malcolm X:

After Malcolm X was gunned down in 1965 at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, three men — who viewed him as an enemy and hypocrite for renouncing the Nation of Islam — were quickly arrested and prosecuted. The case was closed for law enforcement, but many have doubted that police captured the right men.

Marable, who began studying Malcolm X in 1969 and founded the African American studies program at Columbia University, uses the biography, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” to search for answers and name five alleged conspirators. Only one has served time for the crime.

While the 592-page book also examines Malcolm X’s life, it is the research into his death, which publisher Viking Press describes as “the never-before-told true story of his assassination,” that could prove most controversial. Marable goes further than any other mainstream scholar in pointing to specific individuals who he alleges plotted to kill the minister. The man who fired the first and deadliest shot, Marable alleges, is still alive, while another conspirator has died. The book does not include definitive information about the fate or whereabouts of the other two.