Not long ago our friend Paul Ortiz, director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida, spoke to Florida’s WUFT FM (the area’s NPR affiliate) on the impact of the Freedom Rides on the civil rights movement. Listen here.
Monthly Archive for May, 2011
James Zwerg was a young white man, a Christian, who was among a group of Freedom Riders who rode a Greyhound bus into Montgomery, Alabama, in 1961. A mob of men were waiting with bats and chains. In a chilling act of foresight not unlike of the kind of planning executed by civil rights organizers, the mob had blocked streets leading to the bus station and chased away photographers. They didn’t want anyone to see what they were about to do.
What they were about to do was severely beat Zwerg and his fellow Freedom Riders. The beating had real ramifications, as later the nation saw Zwerg’s battered, bloodied face. From his hospital bed, his eyes swollen shut, Zwerg told a camera crew that he and his fellow activists were not afraid to die. The movement would go on. It was a remarkable message–and one delivered by a man so injured that he doesn’t even remember delivering it.
Zwerg didn’t feel like a hero. He was haunted by its memory and by the effect his activism had on his relationship with his parents. He felt guilty that he received so much attention, believing that were he black he would have been ignored.
This article, and the documentary from which this story is drawn (“Freedom Riders” on PBS) are powerful reminders not only of the savagery of resistance to the movement but also of the multifaceted, complex personal legacies of civil rights activism.
Margaret Herring was sent by SNCC into the lion’s den of Selma law enforcement because she could pass as a sympathetic white southerner. Watch:
Tomorrow from 2:30am to 12:30pm, this blog and the Long Civil Rights Movement Publishing Project’s Voice will be unavailable due to a “critical equipment upgrade” at the University Library. If during this dark time your thoughts being to take a malevolent tilt, please watch this heartwarming video:
The LCRM Team
Guest post by UNC junior Elizabeth McCain.
At home they call it front-porch disease. It’s an affliction to which all Southerners with covered verandas, small stoops, or wrap-around porches are susceptible. Front porch disease is a condition where time slows; one forgets about one’s list, sips something cold, swats at mosquitoes, and pauses long enough to have a real conversation. You end up talking much longer than you intended or had time for, but the discussion is worth it.
The last two Wednesdays of this semester conversation on the porch of the Love House was of the best caliber. Students, community members, faculty, and professors gathered to reflect on the long struggle for civil rights and talk about what we still remains on the agenda.
The gathering and discourse was prompted by presentations from Jacquelyn Hall’s History 670 class. I was fortunate to be a part of this course, which focuses on capturing and magnifying voices not usually heard in dominant civil rights narratives. We, both graduate and undergraduate students, interviewed people across the nation from Illinois to Florida to Mississippi to Chapel Hill. Through their words and recollections, we learned about the struggle for the black cultural center on campus, the tobacco buyout, the Rogers Road Landfill, Mexican-American deportation during Second World War, the current leadership philosophies of the Wake County School Board, and many other events.
Continue reading ‘Performing Oral History’
The cameo by Center for the Study of the American South’s Senior Associate Director (and noted folklorist and documentarian) Bill Ferris will be our excuse to brag on local favorite Crook’s Corner, featured here in a video from the James Beard Foundation.