“The chief weapon in our fight for civil rights is the vote.”
Dr. Martin Luther King spook these words in 1955
during the Montgomery Bus Boycott
This was a decade before the climax of the Voting Rights Campaign,
The Selma March,
in the freezing cold spring of 65
now 50 years ago
Later that year
on a sweltering hot summer day
he spoke to young volunteers for SCOPE,
the Summer Community Organization
and Political Education Project.
He told them,
“This generation of students is found where history is made.”
And, they made history!
More than a thousand,
They came to the Deep South from all over America,
to do what those who subjugated the Negro
Register African-Americans to vote!
They walked thru domains of the Klu Klux Klan –
and segregated shanty towns
and the sun burnt cotton fields
of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia,
Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida.
They urged and explained to the disenfranchised Negro,
“You have the Right to Vote!”
“Your vote is your weapon for your civil rights!
I was working for Dr. King at the time –
recording news and sending it to the media.
Sometimes, I went into the field to set up sound systems and record.
One day – I experienced what the SCOPE volunteers
were up against – Every day.
It was a hot Georgia afternoon.
I was driving back from Albany
in a convertible with the top down.
I had a Black reporter in the car.
We ran out of gas.
“I’ll hide in the bushes,” he said.
You hitch a ride and get some.”
A farmer in a pick-up truck drove me to a gas station.
I filled up an open tin water can, and put it between my legs in the front seat.
Suddenly the owner ran out and hollered,
“A man said he saw you with a Black man.
I want my gasoline back.
Here’s your money.”
I gave it back!
I was afraid he’d throw a cigarette in the can.
I got back into the pick-up
and the farmer and I drove off,
but I couldn’t help thinking,
“Maybe he’s a Klan member. Where’s he taking me.”
Then he said something that taught me a life lesson!
“I want you to know that All Georgians are not like that!”
We drove to the next gas station.
“Sorry, our gas is up.”
The man from the first station
must have warned the fellow at the pump.
We drove 10 miles more.
I finally got some gas!
During that Selma spring and summer,
four people died,
hundreds were injured
and weary feet ripped and bled.
People marched to demand Civil Rights – the Right to Vote –
54 miles from Selma to the state capitol, Montgomery!
Viola Luizo, a mother of five from Detroit
was shot by the Klan in March.
They side-swiped her 1963 Oldsmobile and killed her
because she was driving a Negro back
from Montgomery to Selma.
I recorded the news and sent it to the media.
I will never forget it.
Last fall was the 50 th reunion of the SCOPE project.
Many of us who there in ’65 got together once more.
I videoed our stories and discussions for posterity.
- talk about President Obama
and how the Movement we were part of made possible
what only the Likes of Dr. King – could have dreamed.
- talk about friends and people we knew
who risked their lives and lost their lives
in the fight for Civil Rights.
And …… talk about what’s going wrong right Now
how the Supreme Court decision of 2013
is compromising the Voting Rights Act
by transferring Federal government protection
of the right to vote back to authority of the States –
- States that once disenfranchised the Negro, and Are Today:
Re-drawing Congressional districts
Requiring Voter ID’s and
Closing down Polling places in shanty towns and ghettos
with the purpose of – Disenfranchising Once More!
We decided – This will not, this Cannot happen!
We Shall Overcome – Again.
“The chief weapon in our fight for civil rights is the vote!”