What Happened to Forgotten Civil Rights Activists


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While in a motel room flicking through cable channels after attending a function in Hattiesburg, MS that honored former NFL star Harold Jackson, I unexpectedly ran across a short film on Angela Davis. The film highlighted Angela’s and other activist’s roles during the 1960’s civil rights movement. Since it is February and black history month, I  wondered why we do not honor or at least mention some of the African-Americans activists who did not fully agree with the more passive and nonviolent principles of the civil rights activists we honor every year. Some of the forgotten activists had a tremendous influence on my life as well as the lives of many other people during the civil rights movement.

I remember; Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Huey P Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis, the Greensboro NC sit-ins where Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Jibreel Khazan and David Richmond made history, Fannie Lou Hamer and Vivian Malone Jones.  History has become one-sided to the extent that one side of the story gets all the glory and the other side of the story goes into the toilet. In this case, it is because of the perception that most of the activists I have mentioned were considered subversives and allegedly encouraged violence. However, they were a part of the movement and should not be forgotten. No matter what the perception was back then, history is supposed to be a record of what actually took place in the past and should not be a sanitized version that most Americans today seem to prefer.

I remember growing up in the south and hearing many of my relatives as well as community leaders, all of whom were African-Americans, say what I considered negative things about Martin Luther King, who has become one of the most celebrated African-American civil rights icons. I heard them say; who does he think he is, he going to mess things up for us and he is going to cause some of us to be killed. Remember 1958, a black woman, Izola Ware Curry, stabbed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a 7″ letter opener at a book signing in Harlem, New York. I can remember that after the attack, MLK referenced the incident in some of his speeches by saying that if he would have sneezed while the letter opener was still embedded in his chest, it would have punctured a major artery and he would have died. I did not understand back then why my people wanted to continue living as second-class citizens.

The principles of nonviolence and passive resistance eventually won over the principles of “fighting fire with fire”. However, if it were not for the suggestion of the “fighting fire with fire” principles, I believe that many of us would not have survived the sixties.


About Eva H Harris Blog

Eva H Harris High School, Brookhaven, MS.
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