Viola W Lindsey, MSW, PhD
Surely, he shall never be shaken. The righteous man will be remembered forever, Psalm 112:6
My mind is in a concentrical circle, at the core of which is wonderment; wondering how might it be possible to condense 400 years and 146,000 days of Black History into one-twelfth of a year and 28 days. The answer came in the form of a question from the inquisitive mind of a 10-year-old who had the audacity to ask, Grammy, how come every year during Black History month we only talk about Dr Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks; weren’t there any other people involved in the cause?
While the question felt almost blasphemous, it was a reminder to consider remembering the names of some of the lesser known and lesser talked about individuals. There are many individuals who not only participated in but gave their lives in the struggle for Black rights and freedoms. Sometimes we forget to remember. Our forgetfulness does not make them any less a necessary part of history. There will be others who will ask the same question: weren’t their others whose names are never mentioned? The very thought of such a question should arouse the collective consciousness of our dereliction in failing to remember, and hence its collective neglect of preserving deserved stories. As practitioners and social scientists, research has shown us the power of storytelling in teaching, forging relationships, and, arguably above all, inspiring people to make change.
Tangential as they may seem compared to the role of an individual like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., there are individuals whose contributions to the Civil Rights Movement are just as noteworthy. Take for example, Claudette Colvin. At age 15 in 1955, Claudette preceded Rosa Parks in her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white woman. She was arrested and charged with being a juvenile delinquent. That charge made Claudette Colvin unsuitable to be the face of the Civil Rights Movement. Nine months later, Rosa Parks was arrested for the same ‘crime’ as Ms. Colvin. At this point the Montgomery bus boycott is now in full swing. The story of Rosa Parks remains etched in our storytelling today. But we also remember Claudette Colvin. In 2021, at the age of 82, Ms. Colvin’s record was expunged, and she is no longer considered a juvenile delinquent.
We remember the “Little Rock Nine” during Black History Month. But little is said about Autherine Lucy. Under protest, riots, and civil unrest, Autherine Lucy enrolled in the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa in 1955. Within three days she was expelled ‘for her own safety’. Her dismissal would later be annulled. Re-enrolling in the University of Alabama in the 1980’s along with her daughter, Lucy earned a master’s degree in elementary education and an honorary doctorate degree from both the University of Alabama and her alumnus, Miles College, A Historical Black University (HBCU). A historical marker now hangs at the University of Alabama in honor of Lucy’s courage. Vivian Malone and James Hood would later enroll in the University of Alabama in 1963 as the then Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, stood in the door to block their entrance. Malone became the first African American to graduate from the university.
We remember the 16th Street church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama where four young girls ages 11 and 14 were killed. I want to remember James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, both Jewish, and Andrew Goodman, an African American, who were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi in the midst of offering art classes, and curriculum on Black History while participating in a Black voters’ registration drive.
Who can forget Viola Liuzzo, a White civil rights activist from Detroit, Michigan was horrified by the images she saw of ‘Bloody Sunday’ on television? Leaving her husband and children in the care of others, she drove to Marion, Alabama where she took part in the three-day march from Selma to Montgomery. While transporting marchers from Montgomery to Selma, Viola Liuzzo was shot and killed by four Klansmen.
Sometimes during remembering, we forget. Perhaps it is the time to begin again to acknowledge and shine the light on ‘weren’t their others’?
Want to read more in our 2022 Black History Month Blog series? Check out all the posts below!
Why Black History Month? by Dr. Charles Lee-Johnson
Why I can’t wait to get my Ida B. Wells Barbie by Dr. Krystal Hays
Not Black History Just History by Dr. Stephen Brown
Check out the Student Contributions to this series here:
Paving the Way to Worship: Black Christian Leaders You Should Know by Hozell Francis II
Rev. George Liele: Church Planter, Missionary, and Servant of God by Hozell Francis II
Andrew Bryan: Pastor Church Planter, and Servant of God by Armon Patrick
Dr. E. W. McCall: Innovator, Educator, Trendsetter by Hozell Francis II
Lisa Fields: Apologist and Servant of God by Armon Patrick