Category Archives: History

Day Four: Hopeless Causes

Saint Jude is the patron of hopeless cases. As a Catholic, I’ve never much considered asking Saint Jude for intercessions…things have just never been that bad.

But the City of St. Jude in Montgomery was built in the 1930s by a priest from Ireland, Fr. Purcell. And I think he was probably not far off in the choice he made naming the area…it includes a convent, a school, a hospital, a parish, social services…all built on a parcel of land that was and still is predominantly Black and fairly economically depressed.

It’s not hard to imagine that building one of the few havens where Blacks could seek education and medical care in that part of the city in the segregated South seemed a hopeless cause.

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Twelve miles in the mist. With a baby. Again.

When I mention that Edith and are coming from Seattle, nine times out of ten my fellow marchers will chuckle and say, “Oh, you’re used to this.”

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Photo: Lauren Hughes

For our two long days (12-13 miles) we’ve had cloudy skies, mist, rain, the occasional shower. It’s been great, since carrying Edith is like having my own personal furnace, I appreciate the temperatures not hitting the 80s while we’re on asphalt. And the marching songs are invigorating:

Pick ’em up

And set ’em down

All the way

From Selma town

The theme today was on martyrs for the cause. A sobering, sobering reality after flying so high on the heels of Dr. Bernard Lafayette’s talk and following our triumphant entry to the site of “Tent City.:  It was a quiet, contemplative day. A long walk in the rain. A visit to a memorial for a young mother.

When we got tired, we held up four fingers. Four for the martyrs of the Voting Rights March.

Jimmie Lee Jackson — a pulp mill worker, a deacon, and a man who had tried to register to vote five times. At the time of his death defending his mother and grandfather, he never had. His brutal killing at the hands of Alabama state troopers was the catalyst for the march.

Rev. James Reeb — a Unitarian minister, an advocate for social justice, a white man. He answered Dr. King’s call for clergy to come to Selma for peaceful witness. Reverend Reeb was beaten to death by white separatists in the days after Bloody Sunday. President Johnson sent yellow roses and his best wishes to the hospital for Reverend Reeb.  Reverend Reeb’s death — the death of a “white man of God” was another powerful message to wake a nation to the sickness of systematically denying fellow citizens franchise.

Viola Liuzzo — a mother of five, a woman of faith, an NAACP activist in Detroit, she answered the call from Selma. While driving back to Selma after the march ended successfully in Montgomery, she was shot by the Klan. Her passenger, a Black man named Leroy Martin, smeared her blood all over himself so that by lying still the Klan members would also think he was also dead. Her last essence of life protected his.

Jonathan Daniels — a young Episcopal seminarian, he heard the call and stayed in Selma. Working with a Catholic priest and several other young people, Jonathan died trying to integrate a convenience store in Lowndes County. He gave his life when a white “deputy” pulled a gun on a young, Black woman activist and Daniels stepped in the way. The Voting Rights Act was eleven days old.

So you think about those martyrs, and your baby’s not so heavy. Your feet aren’t that sore. Your legs aren’t that tight.

March on.

Each Looked for an Easier Triumph: 100 Years Before Selma

Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, delivered on March 4, 1865. Weeks later the war would be over and Lincoln dead.

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At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

Continue reading Each Looked for an Easier Triumph: 100 Years Before Selma