Many of my heroes and heroines come from the days of the civil rights protests. A time when a young inquisitive boy would sit in front of his flickering black and white TV and watch a younger Walter Cronkite show films of black students and grown ups having dogs turned on them or seeing them pushed down the streets with firehoses. Couple this with going to a Catholic School where we were taught daily not to fight or lie and to treat others as we wanted to be treated. Sure set up some questions in my mind.
So here are some questions about the era and some of the folks whose names we once heard almost daily.
1) The actual head of the March on Washington was not Martin Luther King, but this long time civil rights and labor leader who had been working for equal rights for nearly half a century when the March occurred. Can you name him?
2) One of the basic tools used by civil rights protestors was used successfully by Ghandi in India and espoused by Martin Luther King in the US. This tool called for not returning physical harm, but to comply passively. This tool is known as what?
3) Two of the most publicized actions by civil rights protestors were the sit-ins and the Freedom Rides. The sit-ins first took place at what company’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina?
4) The Freedom Rides left Washington, DC in early May of 1961 headed for what southern stopping point a couple weeks later?
5) During the Freedom Ride one of the worst incidents took place in a small Alabama town where the bus was firebombed and the doors held shut in an attempt to kill the riders. This town is still trying to live down the incident. What is the name of the town?
6) One of the outcomes of the Freedom Rides was that certain signs were removed from waiting rooms throughout the South. What did the signs say?
7) March 7th, 1965 – “Bloody Sunday” – voting rights marchers from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama were turned back by billy club swinging police on what now ever infamous bridge.
8) This little known heroine of the civil rights era was the first to refuse to move to another bus seat to accommodate a white passenger. Due to some other circumstances she was not chosen to be the catalyst for protest. The person chosen for that role was Rosa Parks. Who was this little known heroine.
9) Another hero of the movement is spoken little of, probably because he was homosexual. Yet he was the chief organizer for the March on Washington, among other marches and events such as the 1947 Freedom Rides. He also helped form CORE and advised SNCC leaders. Any idea who this behind the scenes man was?
10) From the bus boycotts of 1955 to the days of the Vietnam protest, this song with simple lyrics eminated from town squares and jail cells as protestors stated they would eventually win. Sing it along with me now:
O come on you know that song!
I can’t help myself. When I think of the incredible bravery and the self-sacrifice of the heroes of the civil rights era, tears roll up in my eyes. They literally put their lives on the line for the greater good of all.
Answers? Of course.
1) A. Phillip Randolph long time head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters among other titles.
2) nonviolence. How protestors could be beaten and never lift a finger – wow.
3) Woolworth’s – once the king of the five-and-dimes.
4) New Orleans on May 17th. Not sure if they have made it yet.
5) Anniston, Alabama
6) The “COLORED” and “WHITE” signs were removed from waiting rooms, drinking fountains etc.
7) The Edmund Pettis Bridge.
8) Claudette Colvin refused to move as she returned from school for the day. She was in HS and became pregnant shortly thereafter, so she was not chosen for the eventual ride that sparked the boycott.
9) Bayard Rustin. Never given the credit he deserved due to his homosexuality.
10 ) We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day
We will not be moved
We will not be moved
We will not be moved today.