I was ten years when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
I remember the night so vividly. My mother and stepfather had gone to a meeting and my younger brother and I were watching television. It was an episode of “Bewitched” and we were eagerly watching to see how Samantha would, with a combination of charm and magic, extricate herself from another sticky situation.
Suddenly, the episode was interrupted with one of those “Breaking News/News Flash” type of announcements and the newscaster reported that Dr. King had been shot.
When the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision was handed down in 1954, most white people and school systems in the South viewed the notion of white and black students attending school together as nothing short of the apocalypse. In 1955, when Brown II said that desegregation had to occur “with all deliberate speed,” southern school districts took that language to mean that they could use all sorts of tactics to delay compliance. Even the use of federal marshals or the National Guard to protect black students seeking to enroll in “white schools” did not convince the majority of southern school districts to desegregate the public schools.
With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the filing of additional school desegregation cases by the federal government, many southern school districts grudgingly began to realize that doing nothing with respect to desegregation was no longer an option. My county, Meriwether County, Georgia (the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Little White House) decided on a two-pronged response.
First, as was being done in so many counties in the South, the white parents decided to create a private school for their children. In the fall of 1967, Flint River Academy opened in Woodbury, Meriwether County, Georgia. The official dedication was done by none other than the Governor of the State of Georgia, Lester Maddox, who, prior to becoming Governor, had achieved hero status among segregationists when he and his supporters wielded ax handles as they turned away three black students who were seeking to be seated and served in his restaurant. In fact, that episode was largely responsible for the launching of his political career.
(A picture of a white dove against a bright blue sky, with white clouds and a slight rainbow with the words: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV))
Several years ago, I accompanied my youngest daughter, who was then in undergraduate school, on a trip to Cherokee, North Carolina. By the time we arrived back at her school, it was already getting dark. She suggested that I stay with her or that I stay with my oldest daughter who lived about an hour away. I insisted that I needed to head to my mother’s house, which was about two and a half hours away on some rather dark, long country roads.
About halfway through my journey, at one of the darkest and most lonely spots, I had a blowout. I was able to safely stir the car to the side of the road. However, despite the fact that I had four (count them) phones with four (count them again) different carriers, I was unable to call either AAA for assistance or my mother to let her know what had happened. Since I was not sure of my ability to change a tire and it was very, very dark, I felt I had no choice but to drive (on my flat tire) back towards the nearest town.
March is Women’s History month. As I think about this in the context of Mormonism, I think about how personal history is such an important part of our religious practice. This personal history becomes part of our individual narratives. Unfortunately, my attempts to collect my personal history do not extend beyond this continent. Even genealogy is a penetrating reminder of the continual tragedy of slavery and its far reaching effects. Despite this, I have realized that I have found connection to the women from my personal history through personal ritual. Sure, it doesn’t reach far beyond the continent and beyond the grips of slavery, but it makes me feel closer to the women who have gone before me.
Posted in Black/African American, Culture, Feminist, History, Mormon, Mormons of Color, Personal History, Race, Women of Color
Tagged american culture, family history, Feminism, Gumbo, Mormon, race, Roux, Women of Color