Day 5: Commitment

Let’s talk creature comforts before we go back to Montgomery, Alabama. Dr. McCord has made sure there is a cooler full of ice and bottled water and she reminds us constantly that we need to drink it since we aren’t used to the heat and the humidity. And, there are snacks from chips, Fiber One Bars, brownies to many others. This is good planning since our meals are often far apart and we do get hungry.

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And We’re Off

Tonight’s the night. The students of Professor Karen McCord’s Civil Rights Travel Course meet at the Sacramento airport at 9:00. Each of us is carrying goodies for the members of the group in case we get hungry (Delta provides pretzels, nuts or a cookie.) or in case we are stranded at the airport. According to Freedom Riders (the superb documentary at http://www.shoppbs.org/family/index.jsp?categoryld=11530506&ab=BSpot1CivilRights),the in 1961 the freedom riders who had been severely beaten by a white mob the day before in Birmingham, went to the airport to leave. They were met at the airport by the same angry mob. They had to walk through the mob to get to the plane. Ah safe, finally we get to relax. Bomb scare! And they had to walk back through the mob to the waiting room. The mob surrounded them and it looked like they would be killed before they could get into the air. “They were trapped in limbo. Trapped in a frightened state of limbo.” It took the arrival of John Seigenthaler, representing Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to get them on the plane safely. In our case, if we’re stranded, it will be because of a tornado, storm or other act of God. We’ll have to trust our safety to Him.

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Sam Cook Was Right: A Change Is Gonna Come

I just finished an interview with Jessica Bays. She is a reporter for the “Clarksdale Press Reporter” in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Clarksdale is the Birthplace and World Capital of the Blues in the Mississippi Delta. Lots of Blues musicians have called it home including Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner and Muddy Waters.
So why is this interview important? In 1965 the Mississippi Delta was a hell for civil rights workers and the local people who worked with them.

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My Inspiration: the “Freedom Riders”

Did you see the “Freedom Riders”? It was extraordinary. Now imagine an eighth grade girl watching it in real time. I was shocked. I didn’t believe this could happen in the United States. But it did and I was watching people being brutalized. But I also saw people who were unwilling to let violence triumph over non-violence. Those people were my heroes and heroines. And, they were not only willing to take chances for what they believed in, they were smart. Alabama was a harsh nightmare, which is all the more poignant when we know that those folks wrote their wills before getting on the bus. Mississippi was a test of the Freedom Rider’s ability to out-think the officials of the state.

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A Ghost from the Past

I knew your mother (sister, aunt, father, brother, uncle) and I have stories to tell you about her and pictures to share.” How would you respond to the offer? I ask because this is where I find myself. It’s not my family involved, but the families of others I met in 1965. I’ve written a book You Came Here to Die, Didn’t You and that book includes information about lots of folks. The book is not a lurid exposé. But it does disclose secrets.

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