Monday, January 18, 2010

First person reflections on "Freedom Summer"

Karen Duncanwood discusses the efforts that were made to register black voters
during Freedom Summer in 1964 in Mississippi. (Bill Husa/Staff Photo)

From a feature in today's Oroville CA Mercury Register:
Karen Duncanwood was not afraid — not at the beginning, that is. Why should she be? She knew nothing of the deep South and its "definite system of terror" that kept blacks down, she said. Later, during her stint as a civil-rights worker in the summer of 1964, fear gripped her constantly.

Once, she said she and a couple of other female volunteers tried to worship at the local Episcopal Church. They wanted to participate in Communion.

Soon after they'd sat down, she said, the elders of the church tapped them on the shoulders and told them they weren't welcome.

They walked out to the church's lobby and spoke to the elders there.

Duncanwood said she explained she'd been raised Episcopalian and that she wanted to join in Communion.

She said the men reiterated they should leave. Then they pulled their hands out of their pockets, revealing that they had on brass knuckles. The women went outside and found the tires on their car slashed.

Duncanwood, who recently moved to Paradise from Trinity County, said the volunteers failed to register many blacks that summer, but they succeeded in focusing national attention on the situation in the South because their project was followed closely by national news media.

She feels very lucky to have been a part of Freedom Summer, she said. "It's been the most defining experience of my life."

Read the rest here ... and rejoice that in spite of the fact that we have miles to go before we rest, we have -- as a church and as a nation -- come many, many miles from where we were in 1964. (Thanks to Mad Priest -- via Steve -- for this one!)

1 comment:

IT said...

It may be worth pointing out that teh opponents of marriage equality are explicitly equating themselves with the freedom riders

A question now is whether the opponents of same-sex marriage can plausibly claim, as their court papers have sought to do, that they face threats to their lives and property comparable to those faced by civil rights workers in the Deep South in the 1950s and 1960s.

Now, ask yourself whether the freedom riders tried to REMOVE civil rights from people....

And then ask yourself who is really the victim of hate crimes?
LA County, for instance, hate crimes generally dropped 4% but they increased against LGBT people, prompted in part by Prop 8. According to the LA County Commission on Human Relations, there were 134 sexual-orientation hate crimes reported in 2008, up from 111 in 2007 – and were more likely to be violent than hate crimes motivated by race or religion.

This woman's history should not be claimed by people trying to do the opposite.