I was ignorantly bliss in not knowing them until I’m informed that these men lives were significant enough to have effected mine. Now I need to know who they are.
Derrick Bell, NYU law school professor, was a man of integrity, community dedication, and someone who was in the trenches of the civil rights movement, died at the age of 80 years old on October 5th. I never heard of him but his contributions were admirable. He was born in the Hill district of Pittsburgh, PA and earned his degrees from the universities in the area like a BA fromDuquesneUniversityand a law degree fromUniversityofPittsburgh. Derrick was the first Black in the Justice Department in 1959 and gave it up when he was asked by the department to give up his membership in the NAACP. He resigned and worked for the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP.
He worked alongside such attorney greats as Thurgood Marshall (my hero), Robert L Carter and Constance Baker Motley. While working for the LDF he was assigned toMississippiwhere racism was in full effect. I have heard horror stories come fromMississippiwhere still to this day I have no desire to ever visit the states ofMississippiandAlabama. We all know what happened in Money,Mississippiin August 1955, Emmett Till. Then in 1959 Derrick headed the legal team in the case of James Meredith to enter theUniversityofMississippiagainst the desires of the Governor. I take my hat off to anyone brave enough to travel from the north to the south during the civil rights movement. I have no words to describe those times for Black folks. When I went south in the early 1970’s, I received the advice from my mother to mind my matters. At the time, I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about but by the time I got toSouth Carolina, I knew.
Then we loss Fred Shuttlesworth, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference a well established organization known for their involvement in the civil rights movement whose founders are such men as Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Rev Ralph Abernathy among others. Fred passed away on October 5th, at 89 years old. Fred was a minister atBethelBaptistChurch inBirmingham,Alabama in 1950’s. He fought against segregation during the most recorded violent of time inAlabama. His wife was stabbed and he was beaten with chains by the Klan for trying to enroll his children in an all white public school. Another governor was against segregation. We can’t forget about Governor George Wallace ofAlabama, who pledged,
“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
These men were brave to go up against governors in such racist states.
It was Fred Shuttlesworth church who gave the Freedom Riders shelter when they were attacked and beaten in Birmingham and Anniston and when there was no one willing to drive them on, even Attorney General Robert Kennedy couldn’t find anyone willing to drive the bus, it was Shuttlesworth who got them to the airport to fly in Louisiana because it was just to dangerous to continue on by bus.
Yes we must sing their accolades because we are standing on their shoulders today and must never forget and remind each other often how hard life was for our people and how our heroes should be those who came before us because they suffered for all of us. They are not going to tell the hard truths in our basic education systems. So its up to us to tell those coming up behind what we had to do to be free.