Thursday, March 19, 2015

Because They Marched

Because They Marched

Juvenile nonfiction
These days a lot of Americans don't vote. Some people don't
think they can make a difference with both parties being so bought and
owned by big bidness. But the vast majority of the voters seem to
just not care. Things weren't always this way. My mother was a
toddler when women won the decades long struggle for sufferage. My
life encompases a time when for a black person in the South the most
courageous possible act was to enter the town courthouse to register
to vote. In the 1960's people lost their jobs, their homes, even
their lives for asserting their desire to have a say in the affairs of
their nation.
For reasons I will explain at the end of this review, I find
this state of affairs to be dangerous. I think we and our children
need a look into the not so distant past. Russell Freedman's Because
They Marched is a good place to start. Freedman wrote the book to
commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the march for voting rights
from Selma to Montgomery.
Back in the early sixties Jim Crow was the law of the land in
the South. Education was built around racially separate and far from
equal. Facilities like hospitals, churches, movie theaters, buses,
eating places, and pools were also segregated. One boy is quoted as
wondering what white water tastes like. Blacks had to be subservient
toward whites or face the brutal consequences..even if they were
Not everyone was happy with this state of affairs. Black
parents wanted decent schools for their beloved children. World War
II veterans were treated like second class citizens in the nation they
had risked their lives defending. Eventually people decided the
condition of black people would not improve until the majority of them
had and exercised the right to vote. Southern whites were big fans of
the status quo, however, and willing to do whatever it took to prevent
The text covers this tumultuous period nicely. But the
photographs steal the show:
A robed Ku Klux Klansman showing off a hangman's noose through the
window of a truck;
Dazed people sitting on the grass near their firebombed bus;
A minister looking at the ruins of his church;
Children holding hand made signs asking for their parents to be
allowed to vote...these pictures are worth far more than the
proverbial words and great starting points for discussion.
We need to be having these discussions. Even now in the twenty-
first century people want to take these hard earned rights away. Only
now they're using legal manipulations instead of attack dogs, clubs,
hooded outfits and nooses, and threats. And we can't let this
happen. In my opinion, most of us could stand schooling each other in
the lessons of civics and history.
On a personal note, as I write this gusts are howling around my home.
The few sturdy wind chimes I still have out are like dancers on
amphetamines. And the weather is cold. I lost feeling in my fingers
just taking the trash can to the curb even while wearing gloves. Well
yesterday I walked back from Orono only to realize the lock on the
screen door would not open and my husband who could fix that was still
to work. I was so glad to have my storage shed. Even unheated it
blocked the wind. First thing I did later when I got in the house was
put on water for tea.
A great big shout out goes out to all the people like trash collectors
and public works folks and construction workers who put in eight or
ten hour days under those brutal conditions. My heroes!!!
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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