People's History: Civil Rights (Passive Resistance), 1948-64 (Chap 17)

Martin Luther King, early 1960s
We Shall Overcome, Morehouse College Choir
Tantum Ergo
Mozart's Requiem in D Minor
We Shall Overcome, Greater Saint Stephen Choir

Though blacks were guaranteed their liberty,
for ninety years they sought equality,
with goals accomplished most successfully
by common folks resisting passively.

"The South had never known me." In the poetry
of people "waiting, hot, and coiled" the agony
of being black was eloquently told. "Jim Crowed"
to death, called 'nigger,' 'darky,' ready to explode
with anger and frustration. Strange that sympathy
would come from communists -- they challenged liberty
disguised by racist thought. So Truman's Civil Rights
committee - all the world observing - set its sights
on betterment (morality and '48
election pressure taking turns to motivate).
With Brown against the Board of Education came
the end of "separate but equal." Yet the shame
was that desegregation, in reality,
did not occur. It wasn't a celebrity
who changed the world, but Rosa Parks, who kept her seat.
The boycott of the buses was a great defeat
for business. Blacks were resolute. They "walked with God"
for many months, with some arrested (very odd!)
for urging friends to walk. And racist violence
ensued, with churches bombed, a vulgar consequence
of black audacity. The home of Reverend King
was bombed. But King himself insisted everything
depended on nonviolence and sacrifice,
and Christian passiveness. His laudable advice
was followed for awhile. Four men, a Woolworth's store
refusing service, sit-ins start to underscore
the sheer injustice. Many thousands thrown in jail.
With "freedom riders" on the buses, thugs assail
the peaceful groups. And blacks are still in poverty.
"So what's your name?" the person of authority
demands. "It's FREEDOM," says the boy. A world aware
and watching, Congress forced to listen, to declare
by law in '57, '60, '64
our civil rights, our voting rights; to fight the war
on poverty, to follow King's inspiring dream.
But violence pervades the South, and it would seem
to never end -- the Baptist Church in Birmingham,
four children killed by bombs; and drunken racists ram
the car of advocates in Mississippi, beat
and torture three young men, and kill them. Bittersweet
the victories for civil rights: our government,
while passing laws, is otherwise indifferent.

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