Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
January 17, 2011
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Today is the day we pause and reflect on the lasting contributions of Dr. King, who is honored by this federal holiday. Last night I watched “The Rosa Parks Story” on television.
Here’s something else to watch and to think about.
All this re-energizes my writing on my third novel, set in Montgomery during the civil rights movement. It makes me re-invest
in the idea that so often inspires me, that of women and the roles they played in this movement that is still going on today.
It was the women who organized the boycott, it was the women who walked, by and large, the women who bore the brunt of it.
Fanny Lou Hamer, beaten and left in a dark Mississippi jail for days without medical or legal help; Amelia Boynton, shoved to the ground by an infuriated Sheriff Jim Clark in Selma; Rosa Parks, stubborn, proud, refusing to give up her seat, being arrested in Montgomery, losing her job, along with husband Raymond; Joann Robinson was eventually forced out of her job as English professor at Alabama State for her role in instigating and sustaining the boycott. Rosa and Raymond Parks, both born and raised in Alabama, left the state for good, moving eventually to Michigan. Writer Lillian Smith’s house was set on fire. Clifford Durr never had a paying client in all the days of his law practice in Montgomery. He was the one called to go down and bail Rosa Parks out of jail,because black attorney Fred Grey would have been ignored.
“You guys. . . have lived off these poor washwomen all your lives and ain’t never done nothing for ’em. And now you got a chance to do something for ’em. . .” Olsen, Freedom’s Daughters, Simon and Schuster, 2001.
I guess that’s the driving sentiment for me.