Thursday, March 5, 2015

Marching Forward

We had almost a foot of snow last week.  Most of Alabama closed up shop and didn’t reopen for business until temps climbed a day later. 

Luckily, the roads and bridges were clear for our first Gadsden Civil Rights Unity Walk across Memorial Bridge.  The walk, hosted by the GPL, was to honor those individuals from Gadsden who in some way contributed to the Civil Rights Movement and to honor those events that took place in Gadsden/Etowah County during (before and after) the Civil Rights Movement.  My thoughts turned to Bunk Richardson, wrongly accused and lynched from the trestle bridge in 1916 for the rape and murder of a white woman; Baltimore postman William Lewis Moore, who was shot to death in 1963 on Highway 11 in Etowah County as he walked his letter of desegregation from Maryland to Mississippi; James Hood, whose entry in 1963 as one of the first African American students at the University of Alabama was initially barred by Governor George Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door;” Alan Cohn and Alvin Lowi, shot by sixteen-year-old Jerry Hunt while fleeing a firebombed Temple Beth Israel; a teenaged Robert Avery and James Smith hitchhiking north in 1963 to participate in the March on Washington; Emory Boggs, set on fire (and later died) in 1975 by Stanford Lewis Collins in a robbery gone horrifically wrong. 

Our diverse little group made its way west on the bridge, led in song by Jeanette Allen and SCLC President Marcia Kendrick.  We walked within steps of the statue of Emma Sansom, Civil War heroine who pointed the way for Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to safely cross Black Creek and pursue Union forces.  The irony was not lost on me that on THIS day, she pointed the way for a different kind of soldier…

Copyright Eric T. Wright.  With permission.

Once we reached the gazebo of City Hall, Ms. Kendrick spoke about the importance of education and of remembering our history.  We then joined hands and sang We Shall Overcome.  As the small crowd broke up and Ms. Kendrick was pulled aside by television crews for interviews, I slipped away with Ms. Allen and Mr. Smith (one of the teens who hitchhiked to D.C. back in 1963) to walk back across the bridge to our cars and to notify the city street crew of the end of our walk...

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