A co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee tells the story of how a little town in central Alabama became the national stage for the movement that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
With the assistance of Johnson (Education/Univ. of Rhode Island), LaFayette (Scholar in Residence/Emory Univ. School of Theology) discusses how, when he volunteered to take on the job of organizing a voter registration drive in Selma in 1962, none of his colleagues in the civil rights movement thought he would succeed in his mission. They had just taken Selma off the scouting list and told him that “the white folks are too mean and the black folks too afraid.” However, in his early 20s at the time, LaFayette was ready for the challenge. Trained in nonviolence, he had participated in lunch counter sit-ins and freedom rides on the buses that crossed the South. He bears witness to the impressive courage of the many other people who participated in the movement, and his story stands in stark contrast to the anger-fueled populism that plagues political movements today. It is a story of how people organized to accomplish things they didn't know they were capable of and how they overcame fear to peacefully oppose harassment, violence and even death threats. LaFayette began by learning about the area for which he was responsible—e.g., figuring out why the sidewalks had two different tiers and why some black barbers refused to cut the hair of other black men. Teaching others the methods he learned helped them find the courage to hold the line against state troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in early 1965.
An inspiring story of the human qualities and sacrifices that helped bring about a world we sometimes take for granted.