Moderator: Bruce Gourley
Letters for Publication
Ft. Payne Alabama
September 27, 1978 I purchased a copy of Will Campbell's Brother to A Dragonfly. I was pretty much spellbound reading second month in Knoxville, Tn after sixteen years in Gaffney, South Carolina the last ten years of which stay had a strong undercurrent of church and school race politics.
I first became acquainted with Will the fall of 73 when the Chaplains brought him to Furman. Then later began to understand the impression he made on Marshall Frady and I was pretty much a disciple.
Will died June 3. If you read the several reports about him in NY Times, Bham News,ABPnews.com and baptistlife.com you get an inkling of his significance. Campbell was the only white man to show up at the Lorraine Motel and be embraced without question the night Martin Luther King was assassinated yet he was a friend of Sam Bowers, the man who was the archetype for the evil Klan genius in the movie Mississippi Burning.
Present at his June 22 Memorial service outside Nashville was John Siegenthaler, friend of the Kennedy administration and longtime friend of Campbell and editor of the Nashville Tennessean. Waylon Jennings widow sang His Eye is on The Sparrow.
Will was on stage in Montgomery in the late 90s with some Collinsville 8th graders including the oldest son of one of the wealthiest and politically influential man in the town, several outstanding Hispanics from first wave of influx into the community and several others of color for which Collinsville has been historically known in DeKalb Coouty of NE Alabama.
It was a function of the Pacers project of the University of Alabama. Will Campbell was a mentor to Jack Shelton, the founder of the program. And then Collinsville principal Sammy Clanton was statewide president of the Pacers Project for Rural schools.
When I brought all this to the attention of the local Historical Association on their facebook wall, it stoked a process that led to my being blocked from participation on that site. I hope in a few weeks they will reconsider their mistake. I am willing to meet with the most fairminded of their group and hopefully be readmitted in good standing in that conversation I have come to enjoy most of the time.
In this 50th anniversary of Civil Rights struggle in Alabama I earlier also brought to the community's attention an online story of 2002 in the LA Times about the walk of William Moore through DeKalb County in April 1963. That reminder got some hazing as well.
That is sad, but in some ways understandable given the analysis of Wayne Flynt and a UGA proff in an excelled and easily googled piece at WBHM.org on the 50th anniversary of George Wallace stand in the schoolhouse door as reported June 11.
In that piece Flynt said:
"I think Wallace’s lasting legacy is the polarization that has made Alabama to this day not only the most conservative of American states but also most racially polarized."
Wayne Flynt is a former history professor at Auburn University and is the author ofAlabama: The History of a Southern State.
"In the 2008 presidential election between Obama and John McCain Alabama had the most divided populace of any state in the United States. 98% of African Americans voted for Barack Obama and more than 90% of whites voted for John McCain."
REcently I was rereading a late 90's pamphlet of the Baptist Historical Society, the whole issue devoted to a take on Baptists and the Civil Rights Movement. It was noted than even as late as the 90s Civil Rights history was rarely mentioned in white Baptist churches, and when it was pastors often reported frowns in the congregation.
Now these folks in Collinsville aren't bad people. There are only about 7 folks out of the 2,000 or so in South Dekalb County hard for me to get along with and I hope this opinion piece doesn't double that number. But when what passes for what one woman called the local "aristocracy" is so averse to honest history, what hope is there for integrity in social studies education and a more informed electorate.
That is where Ben Shurett's good piece on Frank Rose and the school house door may have a lesson for this region of NE Bama. Shurett said:
In his obit in 91, it was said of Rose: "The University President who described himself as neither a seg or an integrationist, but a realist, had vowed to ensure obedience to the laws and peace on the campus". I hope to advance that notion with an analogy to the CHA in my submission to the TJ. Shurett said in those days he met Bobby Kennedy, Katzenbach and Wallace, the man who embodied the folly of backward thinking. End of quote
In the conundrum of the White moderate in the South, sooner or later, somebody has to risk advancing the conversation for the common good, for something better. That is where Will Campbell made a much bigger difference than Frank Rose, though Frank Rose was a good man. And that is what seems to be lacking in Collinsville, Alabama, folks who can maintain good standing in the community while pointing out discrepancies between what passes for the best in the community holds as their image and actual practice, and the places where that image stifles others who may have just as much or more character and ability than themselves seeks to engage the conversation causes unnecessary resentments.
My family on my Mother's side goes back back to the 1840s in the Collinsville vicinity. My Great Grandfather was born in 1841 and buried in Rocky Mounty cemetery. I look forward to being back on the Historical Association Faceback wall soon.
You may not be bombing places, you may have not murdered anybody, you may not be homosexual, but just because you are not involved in such acts does not mean you are such a good person. People compare their lives with people responsible for acts like those, and they make themselves believe their lives are "okay." Then, they begin to judge the people responsible for such acts. Having good behavior doesnt make you a good person. Neither you or me are any better than the person that bombed a building or the person that murdered someone. I am saying all of this because of all the Zimmerman case posts all over the internet. Trayvon's family is not the only family that needs prayer. George Zimmerman and his family also need prayers. Don't condemn George Zimmerman because of what he did. As harsh as it may sound, Im not sure if Trayvon is Heaven or Hell. Im not quite sure of how he lived his life, and Im not sure how G. Zimmerman will continue to live his. I do know God can forgive him. Saul, later known as Paul persecuted the church, God's people. . and God still used him! Im not saying Im perfect, Im not saying justice or injustice was done. I just hope eyes and hearts are opened.
Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly,
In love may dwell with Thee.
Out [southern] fundamentalists still perform theological lobotomies on themselves and their children.
by Catherine Trotter Jordan (aka Mom)
Beginning school two weeks late,
You sit in my classroom.
Almost, you are a foreign student
To me so fresh from city schools.
Brown eyes that mirror the sunrise,
And cattle feeding,
You tell me in your autobiography:
"I hate English and
I don't like English teachers."
Teach me, tobacco boy.
Teach me the difference in
Already I appreciate the lazy smoke
Encircling rustic barns as summer wanes.
Already I appreciate the golden fields of---
Burley, is it?
Teach me, and I will try
To help you learn
To love a book.
Tell All The Truth
Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;
As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.
good luck. Everybody on the first day is the same place you are. Be cool. your life experience to date puts you at the top of the class. Don't forget that. Don't be proud, just maintain the confidence you bring to the situation. America is flawed and Alabama moreso, but Abraham Lincoln, Judge Frank Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr, Oscar Romero. clint Dempsey, Julie Little and Lexxi got your back. God Bless You. Soccer strong.
A number of recent historians, including Stephanie McCurry, Adam Rothman, and Manisha Sinha, have helped to build this case, and now a new book by Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom, goes a long way toward clinching it. Johnson shows in horrific detail how the culture of slave society—intellectual, social, sexual—arose out of the imperative of more and more cotton cultivation. In a brilliant chapter titled “The Carceral Landscape,” Johnson’s book reads as a kind of scholarly companion to Quentin Tarantino’s studiously gothic film Django Unchained. He demonstrates “the spectacular character” of punishment (deliberately evoking the root sense of spectacular as denoting something demonstrative to the eye) by showing how “slaveholders used violence didactically”—creating, with every whipping, with every leashing of a shoeless slave to the saddle of a trotting horse, a spectacle that flooded into the mind of any slave contemplating flight or resistance. This regime of terror was as sophisticated as it was brutal: “the baying of hounds in the woods” becomes “a sort of sonic tracer by which slaveholders could follow ... remotely” the progress of runaways.
What makes Johnson’s book more than a catalogue of horrors is its account of how slave-owners, too, were caught in the cycle of fear. “In order to survive,” he writes, they “had to expand.” As new technologies (not only the cotton gin) and new markets (Europe as well as the industrializing North) drove the expansion of cotton production against any and all compunction, talk of ending slavery, which had once been central to debate about the future of the republic, became a deadly threat to the economy of the South and, to a significant degree, of the whole nation. “Planters whose capital was tied up in land and slaves depended upon advances against cotton for liquidity—and only cotton would do for factors and bankers who had to be certain of the salability of the staple promised in consideration of the capital they had advanced.” The demand for cotton was insatiable. Yet once cotton was harvested, ginned, packed, and shipped, it still had to make its way through a gauntlet of risks till it arrived at the terminus of a long line of creditors who had advanced funds to the seller. En route, it could slide down muddy embankments, rot in leaky warehouses, or be consumed by animals or pilfered by thieves, leaving the seller with a burden of unsecured debt.
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