February 8, 2006

Captain's Log

Hatched by Dafydd

Captain Ed has a truly excellent piece up right now, certainly one of the best he's written. He discusses the Coretta Scott King funeral and what Jimmy Carter and the Rev. Joseph Lowery did to it; Ed makes an excellent point about the distinction between politics and partisanship:

However, the difference is the partisanship on display, mostly by Jimmy Carter and Reverend Lowery. Politics and partisanship are two different things, although some apparently cannot divorce one from the other. It is entirely possible to have a political event and handle it on a non-partisan basis. Bush attended the funeral, as one CQ commenter stated, as the representative of the nation. That was a moment for all to come together to honor Mrs. King and her achievements, all of which are political, and by avoiding partisanship make them a gift to all Americans.

Instead, Rev. Lowery decided to make snide jokes about WMD, and Carter made barely-veiled allusions to the NSA program he opposes.

Do read the whole thing; it's quite a profitable use of your time.

I met Mrs. King briefly in 1987, when I turned out for a march against the Klan in Cumming, GA (Forsyth County)... along with 20,000 other people. If you're interested, read on.

On January 17th, two days before MLK Day that year, a small group of civil-rights marchers -- maybe a hundred? -- marched through the town; this was a town where, in 1912, all the black residents had literally been driven out, and it had remained an almost all-white county ever since.

The marchers were led by Rev. Hosea Williams, but they were unable to finish the march because they were attacked by hundreds of Klansmen and other white supremacists, who threw bricks and bottles at them, breaking up the march.

Williams immediately began to plan a "return to Forsyth" march for the next Saturday, the 24th; it was widely publicized, and my then girlfriend Sue and I decided to go. It was a bit dicey, because I was still in the Navy at the time, and we weren't supposed to be more than fifty miles from the base unless we were on leave. (I also decided to march in uniform -- which was likewise forbidden!)

I found a description of the march, from a Supreme Court case ( FORSYTH COUNTY v. NATIONALIST MOVEMENT, 505 U.S. 123 [1992]) that grew out of the confrontation:

Petitioner Forsyth County is a primarily rural Georgia county approximately 30 miles northeast of Atlanta. It has [505 U.S. 123, 125] had a troubled racial history. In 1912, in one month, its entire African-American population, over 1,000 citizens, was driven systematically from the county in the wake of the rape and murder of a white woman and the lynching of her accused assailant. 1 Seventy-five years later, in 1987, the county population remained 99% white. 2

Spurred by this history, Hosea Williams, an Atlanta city councilman and civil rights personality, proposed a Forsyth County "March Against Fear and Intimidation" for January 17, 1987. Approximately 90 civil rights demonstrators attempted to parade in Cumming, the county seat. The marchers were met by members of the Forsyth County Defense League (an independent affiliate of respondent, The Nationalist Movement), of the Ku Klux Klan, and other Cumming residents. In all, some 400 counterdemonstrators lined the parade route, shouting racial slurs. Eventually, the counterdemonstrators, dramatically outnumbering police officers, forced the parade to a premature halt by throwing rocks and beer bottles.

Williams planned a return march the following weekend. It developed into the largest civil rights demonstration in the South since the 1960's. On January 24, approximately 20,000 marchers joined civil rights leaders, United States Senators, presidential candidates, and an Assistant United States Attorney General in a parade and rally. 3 The 1,000 counterdemonstrators on the parade route were contained [505 U.S. 123, 126] by more than 3,000 state and local police and National Guardsmen. Although there was sporadic rockthrowing and 60 counterdemonstrators were arrested, the parade was not interrupted.

Sue and I drove to Atlanta from Florida, then took a bus for two or three hours to Cumming. It didn't seem that cold, but there was still snow on the ground. We all formed up into a huge line and marched down the street for a mile or so.

We ended at the town square, where Coretta Scott King showed up, sucking all the energy away from Williams. Williams didn't seem to mind; he gave a great talk, of which I heard about every third word (the speakers were inadequate for the job)... but what I heard, I liked. Unlike the Coretta Scott King funeral -- I haven't forgotten the topic -- Williams' speech was not at all partisan: anybody who wasn't a racist could applaud it wholeheartedly.

After he talked, a line formed of people who wanted to shake his hand and say hello, and Mrs. King was right next to him. Sue and I waited through the line; when I got up there, I asked Williams what he'd said in one of the paragraphs of the speech: he was able to repeat it immediately, leading me to believe it was a speech he gave often.

Then I also shook hands with Mrs. King, after which Sue and I threw snowballs around for a while (not at Mrs. King or Rev. Williams). The dirty, white stuff on the ground held more glamor for me, a kid from Los Angeles, than for Sue, who grew up in Waukegan, IL (the most famous residents of which are Jack Benny and Ray Bradbury, with lesser light Kim Stanley Robinson, another SF writer, hailing from there as well; if Ray and Stan ever met, the resulting particle-antiparticle explosion would probably level the place).

Then we got back on the bus and returned to the car, and our eventual drive home to Pensacola.

I'd much rather have seen a gathering and memorial like that one for Mrs. King's funeral; I don't recall her being as viciously partisan as Jimmy Carter, not even while Ronald Reagan was president.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 8, 2006, at the time of 11:55 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/473


The following hissed in response by: radarbinder

Great memory, thanks for sharing! I wonder how much of the South retains that kind of hatred now???

The above hissed in response by: radarbinder [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2006 8:04 AM

The following hissed in response by: LeftTenant

You can track the fate of the Civil Rights movement by what happened next: Hosea Williams became the black Ted Kennedy with numerous DWIs and was somehow persuaded to relive his glory days with a dozen sad old men in sheets in Forsyth. Maybe he got someone to drive him the hour's distance from Atlanta. Instead of a plea for racial harmony, it was revealed to be part of a real estate scam to drive down prices in the next white ring of office park development which Tom Wolfe immortalized in "A Man in Full."
sic transit gloria

The above hissed in response by: LeftTenant [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2006 8:45 AM

The following hissed in response by: sanddog

I always liked Hosea. He didn't take himself too seriously and ws able to make a point without demonizing the "other side".

The above hissed in response by: sanddog [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2006 11:46 AM

The following hissed in response by: The Old Coot

"(the speakers were inadequate for the job)"

I assume you are referring to the loudspeakers/sound system and not the actual speakers.

The above hissed in response by: The Old Coot [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2006 7:22 AM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles

As a native Southerner, I can tell you that bigotry exists here in some pockets of the South that remain stuck in the 19th Century (mainly the blue counties shown on the electoral map). Racism, which is bigotry made into law, officially doesn't exist here (except as promoted by the Party of Slavery, aka the Democrats).

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 11, 2006 3:28 AM

Post a comment

Thanks for hissing in, . Now you can slither in with a comment, o wise. (sign out)

(If you haven't hissed a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Hang loose; don't shed your skin!)

Remember me unto the end of days?

© 2005-2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh - All Rights Reserved