The woman standing next to me asked the ice breaker question we all asked. What are you writing about? I explained I had been a voter registration worker in South Carolina in 1965 and I was writing about it.
She said something like, “That’s so interesting. Just before I came to Maui I read an article in the Modesto Bee (in California) newspaper. It was about a woman who was arrested for trespassing on a beach in South Carolina around 1965. That woman was white and accompanied by other black and white civil rights workers. Those trespassers had just celebrated a reunion in Charleston, South Carolina.”
This couldn’t be coincidence. I asked if they were arrested on Edisto Beach and what the woman’s name was. She didn’t remember, but she did remember the name of the reporter who did the article, Amy White. So, I contacted Amy White and learned that her article “Line in the Sand” was about the “Edisto Beach Thirteen” and the woman who had been arrested was Julie TenBrink. Julie TenBrink and I had ridden to South Carolina in a VW Bug with two other voter registration volunteers. We’d worked together in Charleston before I was sent with three other volunteers to rural Pineville. She had done some canvassing in Pineville as well as Charleston and the arrest at Edisto Beach. We hadn’t been in touch for forty years.
And so, we reunited and I interviewed her for the book. Her interview was the first of many I eventually conducted with people who had worked on the project with me, black and white. And, Julie still had a copy of the manuscript of the trial, so I have two chapters in my book based on it thanks to her.
The lesson: the book was not just in my head – something I would regurgitate from an active brain. Instead my task was to create a symphony blending ideas, memories, interviews, pictures, questions and emotions that also came from others, a combination of tones for which I was a participant and a scribe. I will have more examples of how the book evolved as this blog goes on. I wonder where the blog is going.