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SELMA TO FERGUSON: What’s Happened to America?

by James Rogers
Clash Daily Contributor

What’s happened to America?

I’m old enough to have lived through most of the history of the 20th century and I am not only confused but appalled as I remember the December 1st arrest of Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 and the history making bus boycott that followed. Her actions led to the eventual integration of the bus system in that city.

I remember President John F. Kennedy ordering the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division from Ft. Benning, Georgia to be prepared to enforce the racial integration at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa when governor George Wallace, a staunch segregationist, stood in front of the Foster Auditorium in an effort to block integration June 11, 1963.

And again in September when he attempted to block four black students from entering four different schools in Huntsville, Alabama — but the Federal court in Birmingham intervened and the four children were allowed to enter the schools on September 9 making them the first integrated schools in Alabama.

Martin Luther King’s march on Washington in 1963 and his I Have a Dream speech did much to bring about change. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964.

Riots started in Harlem, NY in July 1964 when a 16 year old African American, James Powell, and a few friend got into an altercation with a building superintendent. When off duty NYPD Lieutenant Thomas Gilligan approached the problem, James Powell slashed him on the arm. When Powell charged Gilligan again, Gilligan fired killing Powell. That incident brought about the Harlem riots. There were no other deaths but many injuries over the next few days.

In order to guarantee blacks the right to vote, Martin Luther King organized a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery. The first march on March 7, 1965 became known as “Bloody Sunday” when the demonstrators were tear-gassed, clubbed, spat on, whipped, trampled by horses, and jeered by others for demanding the right to register to vote. Television and newspapers carried pictures of the event that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

After another failed attempt, Martin Luther King was successful in leading a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery. The Voting Rights of 1965 was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965. Congress later amended he Act five times to expand its protections.

The Watts riots broke out August 11, 1965 over an incident when white policeman, Lee Minikus, arrested Marquette Frye for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The riots resulted in forty million dollars in property damage, thirty four lives lost and more than a thousand reported injuries.

It seems Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, while stressing peaceful demonstration to gain racial equality, has gone pretty much unheeded by both sides. If the 21st century is anything like the 20th century we can look forward to a lot more violence and racial violence.

Ferguson, Missouri may just be a beginning.

Image: http://aframerhist.wikispaces.com/3.+The+Civil+Rights+Movement

James RogersJames Rogers is retired from 37 years of Newspaper/printing and publishing and has written and edited a lot of copy during those decades. He currently blogs and writes short stories for his entertainment and to keep his mind sharp. James Rogers is retired from 37 years of Newspaper/printing and publishing and has written and edited a lot of copy during those decades. He currently blogs and writes short stories for his entertainment and to keep his mind sharp.

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