Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Derrill E. Holly

Mr. Holly was my last interview of the day on September 18th. I met with him at his home in Maryland. Mr. Holly and I became friends years ago when I worked as the Chief Photographer for Hearst-Argyle Television's Washington Bureau and he was a national radio reporter for the Associated Press.

After we caught up a little, Mr. Holly told me that in the 60s he lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and was in high school when he heard Dr. King speak outside of a department store to raise money for the movement. "Many of the leaders would come . . . together and speak at different churches and raise money to go back south for the movement."

We also talked about life as a Black northerner in the 60s. He said you didn't have a problem getting a seat on a bus, but if you went to certain neighborhoods, you wouldn't "be surprised if you got stopped and asked what you were doing in that neighborhood."

We also talked about the day Dr. King was assassinated and the riots that ensued afterwards. He said that his neighborhood was crazy; "you could hear the glass breaking in the corner stores." Then we talked about how those same riots influenced how reporters would be selected to cover those events. Many news outlets were not able to get an accurate story because they did not have reporters of color to get the inside story. It either wasn't safe for non ethnic reporters or no one would talk to them. The news world started to realize it too needed to integrate.

It was a good interview and great to see an old friend.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Ruby Gary

I interviewed Mrs. Gary at her home in Washington, D.C., on September 18th. Mrs. Gary's contributions to the movement were in the form of sign-making and marching outside of the White House in protest. She described her routine as going to work, returning home, working on signs, protesting for awhile, going home to bed, and starting it all over the next day.

Mrs. Gary had an interesting story about the day of the March on Washington. She and other foot soldiers had been preparing for the march when she began to feel ill. As the time to march grew closer, she began feeling more sick. She eventually became so ill that she had to go to the hospital. There she was diagnosed with appendicitis and had to have her appendix removed, causing her to miss the march. "I was one mad sister" after the drugs wore off, she said.

Before the Memories Fade: Julia H. James

I started September 18th with an interview in Alexandria, Virginia, of Mrs. Julia James. She was a student at North Carolina A&T in the early 60's.

Like many foot soldiers in the movement, Mrs. James never really told people of her involvement. "I don't think it's much compared to most," Mrs. James said, but as I listened, her story became more intriguing.

Mrs. James participated in sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, right after the initial sit-ins at the Woolworths. She even went to school with and knew one of the original 4 who participated in the first sit-in in Greensboro! We also talked about her arrest while particpating in a sit-in.

My interview of Mrs. James ended with her relaying memories from the March on Washington, one of the best days of her life, she said.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: LaVerne B. Rogers

My second interview on September 17th was with Mrs. LaVerne B. Rodgers, a Washington, D.C. resident. Mrs. Rodgers talked about her attendance at the March on Washington.

Mrs. Rodgers recalls as a 10-year-old walking with a group of friends to "listen to the man that was on TV who was being beaten." When describing her day at the Lincoln Memorial she smiled, then talked about being surrounded by all of the people. "It was just amazing to talk with all kinds of people from all over with different kinds of drawls, telling what they had gone through."

Mrs. Rodgers was not able to get close to the Memorial but, like many other people, she listened to the speakers on a transistor radio. The experiences of that day are still very fond memories for her.

Before the Memories Fade: Rep. John Lewis

Today, September the 17th, I met with one of the most storied 60's Civil Rights icons, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. Representative Lewis was kind enough to meet with me during his extremely busy Capitol Hill schedule. Given that this Fall session has been jam- packed, the time was well appreciated. I will take it on faith that by now you have read up on the movement and know that Rep. Lewis was in the front of the battle lines on the fight to end segregation.

The interview was held in his office where I saw several photographs and reminders of his ties to the movement. The Congressman and I had a wonderful interview and I truly enjoyed hearing the stories from him. Rep Lewis talked about the importance of the Freedom Rides and what it was like to be on them. He also told what it was like the day of the March on Washington. I learned that the ten speakers met with congressmen on Capitol Hill and then marched with the crowd to the Lincoln Memorial. Rep. Lewis spoke 6th in front of the massive crowd of people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on that historic day. After the march, the speakers met with President John F. Kennedy.

Rep. Lewis also talked about his belief in non-violence as a lifestyle and why he joined the movement. We also talked about the physical abuse he took, including his beating during "Bloody Sunday."

I could have questioned, talked, and listened to the Congressman for hours, but the buzzers were sounding as several votes were being called on the House floor so the Congressman had to leave.

It's so great to here stories of these events that helped to change the course of American history!

For more information on Rep. John Lewis, go to http://johnlewis.house.gov/ or search his name on the Internet.