Balancing Excitement and Dread


In 1965 this “sure” feeling carried me away from the safety of California to the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South.  There was no looking back, no second guessing myself.  I was going.

And the idea of “going” was wonderful.  There were several levels of “going,”  One was that I was going to do something I thought life affirmning – registering black voters.  Another, I was about to travel across the country to places I had never been, to meet people I had never met and to see history being made.  I’d wake up each morning wondering – what will it be like there?  And this was my first trip alone away from home.

The excitement of going sustained me when  I allowed myself to wander into considering consequences.  Like so many other Americans, I had watched the violence of the Civil Rights Movement on television.  I knew about burning crosses and lynchings.  I’d seen police assault children with tear gas, batons, cattle prods, and fire hoses.  In Selma demonstrators were ridden down by police on horses.  I knew civil rights workers had been killed. That’s why I didn’t allow myself to think about the dreadful things very often.

I had the sense that I had to go and I did.




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