Tag Archives: civil rights movement

Quick Take: Momentous Anniversary

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Debbie says:

On this day, August 28, 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black teenager from Chicago, was kidnapped, tortured, and brutally murdered in Mississippi, for allegedly “flirting” with a white woman (who later denied the story).

His mother, Mamie Till, insisted on a open-casket funeral. Horrifying images of his drowned body were published, and were a major factor in galvanizing the Civil Rights movement.

His murderers were acquitted of any wrongdoing. They later confessed to the crime.

Laurie’s Memory Landscape photograph “Handkerchief” includes the last year he was alive, and invokes her memories of that time and of how little has changed.

On this day eight years later, a quarter of a million people gathered in Washington to demand change. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech that day.

Many of the gains of the civil rights movement have been dismantled. Black men and women face fear of white violence (both police violence and civilian racist violence) every day in America.  The struggle waxes and wanes.

Rest in power, Emmett Till. Rest in power, too many to name. Black lives still matter.

Have You Heard of Autherine Lucy? Me Neither.

Debbie says:every-month-is-black-history-month-button-in-3-sizes-8

One of the things I appreciate about having an official “Black History Month,” even though I don’t believe in the concept, is the things I get to learn about heroes from black history who should be household words, and aren’t. One hero I learned about this year is Autherine Lucy.

In 1956, Autherine Lucy won a court judgment allowing her to attend the University of Alabama. To do so, she had to walk through a mob of thousands of racists throwing rotten fruit and setting fires.

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After she had only been enrolled for a few days, the level of mob violence on the campus reached such a height that the University administrators suspended Lucy (not, of course, the rioters), saying that they were doing this for her safety, which was certainly at risk.

When the Federal Circuit Court ruled that she should be reinstated, and it was the University’s job to protect her, they found a way to expel her on a technicality, and the expulsion was in force for the next 32 years. In 1988 it was lifted, and now there is a clock tower named for her on the campus, in a space which also commemorates two other desegregation heroes of that time and place: Vivian Malone and James Hood. Malone and Hood are both deceased; Autherine Lucy (now Autherine Foster) is still alive.

All ages need heroes. Sadly, all American ages need heroes to fight anti-black racism. I am deeply grateful to everyone who risks their life, their safety, and their stability for justice, and I’m glad to know about Autherine Lucy.

Thanks to Denise Oliver Velez at Daily Kos for bringing her to my attention.