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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Another History Lesson (Part 2)

                 A few days ago I blogged about "Bloody Sunday," when civil rights advocates began an aborted march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to petition for voting rights that were being denied to African American citizens.  On that day, April 7, 1965, police and state troopers attacked the marchers, and three days later three white ministers were beaten by mobs and one, James Reeb of Boston died of his injuries.
            I used the events in my novel Too Much Left Unsaid when I told of fictional minister Aaron Connors' decision to be part of the third attempt to make the march on March 21.
            Aaron told his congregation that he would go down to Alabama to take part in the march and invited anyone interested to accompany him. He went alone, but met there his nephew Eddie's best friend, Dar Jones, a black law student from Howard Law School.

        Below is another section from my book:

        "On Thursday, March 25, 25,000 people reached the State Capitol Building where Dr. King delivered an address. He spoke of "a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience...."He concluded by promising, "I know you are asking today, How long will it take? I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long."
        Twenty-five thousand people do not disperse in a hurry. Some marched back along the way they had come or away in various directions satisfied with the outcome. Others hitched rides or rode in cars provided by volunteers like Viola Liuzzo back to Selma. Dar and Aaron returned to the campus at the St. Jude Educational Institute, a private Roman Catholic high school on the outskirts of Montgomery where they had camped on the final evening of the march. Aaron found a pay phone to call Joan [his wife] reporting their elation, but also their bone-tired fatigue. He told her he would start back in the morning.   
        Later on, while Aaron sat listening to his portable radio, Dar called Parkersville to talk to his sister, Sophie. "You should've been there, Soph! People were screaming and laughing and dancing in the street. Dr. King speaks the hopes of our generation. Last night Eddie's Uncle Aaron and I camped at this Catholic church and school and Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis Jr. sang for us. Peter, Paul and Mary, and Frankie Laine, and Tony Bennett. Today we finished the march and listened to Dr. King speak. After the beatings and arrests and strain, this actually did feel like we shall overcome at last."
        Sophie was watching on television some of the footage of the day's events as she talked to her brother. "Dar! Wait! there's a news flash coming on now. Oh, my God! Listen! Here's what they are saying: Viola Liuzzo, a Detroit mother of five who was assisting with the march, was murdered by four members of the Ku Klux Klan. More news to come..."
        "Viola? Murdered? No-oo! That's awful! I met her, Soph! She was at the hospitality desk in Brown Chapel. We talked together. She was at the first aid station yesterday and today. She drove back and forth taking people where they needed to be. Eddie's Uncle Aaron knew her. Are you sure what you heard?"
        "More news to come is all they are saying now. Mama's frantic that you're down there. Do you think it was worth the struggle?"
        Dar left the question unanswered as he turned around and looked at Aaron. Aaron sat with his head in his hand, having just heard the same news from the radio.
        "Got to go, Soph. Tell Mama I'm safe. I'll get back to school as soon as I can. I'll call from DC."
        Aaron looked up when Dar tapped his shoulder. Tears streamed down his face. Dar scowled, too angry to be sad yet.
        "Is it worth it, Rev. Connors? No one seemed to care when only black people died. Now we have people's attention, what's next?"
        Aaron drew a deep breath. "I can't answer your question, Dar. I wish I could. What I would want is for the nation to be upset when anybody is killed. If God is carrying his purpose out, it seems too many lives are being wasted in the process."

There is more to Dar and Aaron's story. I wrote in my novel. But the historical background includes these facts:

·         Viola Liuzzo was a real person, a mother from Detroit, who helped with the march and was murdered on that night.
·         Martin Luther King's words are quoted from the speech he gave on March 25 at Montgomery.
·         Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter, Paul and Mary, Frankie Laine, and Tony Bennett actually did perform at the campground of the St. Jude Catholic High School outside Montgomery on Wednesday night.

The events of that month in Alabama did catch the attention of people around the nation and a voting rights bill was passed by Congress in the summer of 1965.

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