Sunday, December 28, 2014

People died so tonight could happen

Many black people could not vote in 1961 when Obama was born

People died so tonight could happen

The following article was datelined Aug. 5, 1961, and appeared in the Sunday New York Times the following day. It was headlined: BLIND RIDER HELPS BREAK COLOR LINE:

JACKSON, Miss., Aug. 5 (AP) -- Two Freedom Riders, a blind white woman and a Negro, broke the segregation barrier today in a Jackson, Miss., bus depot.

When that landmark event took place, Barack Obama was all of one day old. He was born on Aug. 4. 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Here's some other stories that appeared in the Times the week that Obama was born:

3 U.S. SUITS SEEK VOTES FOR NEGROES:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- The Government filed three civil rights suits today. They charged that Negroes had been denied voting rights in Montgomery County, Alabama, and Walthall and Jefferson, Davis Counties, Mississippi.

NEW CANAAN GETS HOUSING-BIAS POLL:

NEW CANAAN, Conn., Aug. 5 -- A survey to determine whether Negroes would be welcomed as home owners here is being taken by the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

On the day that Barack Obama was born, there were no black federal judges in the United States -- that would not happen until the day after:

HYANNIS PORT, Mass., Aug. 5 (AP) -- President Kennedy has decided to name James Benton Parsons as a Federal district judge. He will be the first Negro appointed to such a judical post in the continental United States.

On the day that Barack Obama was born, black people in a number of cities and towns across the United States could not swim in the same public pool, drink from the same water fountain or use the same restroom as white people. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was still nearly four years away on Aug 4, 1961.

Between the day that Barack Obama was born and 1968, at least 28 people were killed as they actively worked for the rights of black people to live in an integrated society, vote, and eventually run for public office. Their names are:

Louis Allen, Willie Brewster, Benjamin Brown, James Chaney, Vernon Dahmer, Jonathan Daniels, Henry H. Dee, Cpl. Roman Ducksworth Jr., Medgar Evers, Andrew Goodman, Samuel Hammond Jr, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Wharlest Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr, Rev. Bruce Klunder, Herbert Lee, Viola Gregg Liuzzo, Delano H. Middleton, Charles E. Moore, Oneal Moore, William Moore, Rev. James Reeb, Michael Schwener, Henry E. Smith, Clarence Triggs, Virgil Ware, Ben Chester White, Samuel Younge Jr.

These men and women did not die in vain.

They died because somewhere in their souls they knew that someday in America, there would be a night like this night, a night like June 3, 2008:

[T]onight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another—a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

This is not to say that Barack Obama is some kind of Messiah, or even that he will win in November -- he now has five months and a fair opportunity to try to do what 43 other men before him have done, to prove that he has the leadership skills to become the president of the United States. This is just to say how remarkable it is that a man who wasn't even guaranteed the right to vote when he was born is now the Democratic nominee for the White House -- and to say thank you to the people who fought and who even gave their lives to make this moment happen.

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Will Bunch
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