A Texan on Neo-Abolitionism Keneth Kinnamon The writer, Keneth Kinnamon, taught English at Texas Tech in Lubbock from 1956 to 1962. During that time he was active on behalf of civil rights in Lubbock and Slaton. Now a teaching fellow in English at Harvard, he is writing a doctoral thesis on Richard Wright. Cambridge, Mass. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was too enormous and too momentous for any one participant to acquire more than some fragmentary images of his own involvement. The perspective in these notes is that of a Texan marching from Boston. A resurgence of the spirit of abolition has been, as the song has it, “blowing in the wind” in Massachusetts for the past year, even if the building in which William Lloyd Garrison published The Liberator did fall victim to the urban renewal program of what the chamber of commerce hucksters call “The New Boston.” This neo-abolitionism has taken many forms. Last September, the campuses of Harvard and Boston universities, Simmons and M.I.T., Brandeis and Tufts, and a dozen others suffered through the dark night in Oxford with James Meredith. Martin Luther King and James Baldwin both spoke to capacity crowds at Harvard and M.I.T. in the fall. When the Harvard Law School Forum, whose devotion to libertarian principles compels it to sponsor speakers of the most divergent views, followed Dr. King later with Ross Barnett, the City of Cambridge found it necessary for the first time in many years to provide heavy police protection. In November, Edward Brooke, now attorney general of Massachusetts, was the only Negro to run for state-wide office and the only Republican to win in a Democratic sweep \(Observer advocates of and jazz concerts, such as the one organized by Truman Nelson in January for “four young victims of Southern racism” in Monroe, N.C., have been common. In the spring, the Boston Action Group conducted a highly successful boycott against Wonder Bread for discriminatory hiring policies. The NAACP has struggled for several months with a strangely recalcitrant Boston School Committee which has refused to recognize and deal with de facto segregation in public schools in Roxbury and Dorchester. Nor has Thoreauvian individual action been lackingwitness the case of the Concord housewife who made her pilgrimage to the jails of Jackson, Miss., armed only with her copy of the “Essay on the Duty of Civil Disobedience” and a non-violent stone from Walden Pond. But in Boston, as elsewhere, the two events which most enraged public opinion and quickened the collective conscience were the dogs of Birmingham and the murder of Medgar Evers. A Birmingham pro test rally drew some 10,000 demonstrators to Boston Common, and the mourners on the same hallowed grounds numbered only slightly fewer on Medgar Evers memorial day. On each occasion, Endicott Peabody, governor of the Commonwealth, and other elected officials spoke forcefully. It was against this background of increasing militancy that 1,200 Bostonians, half black, half white, boarded 30 buses on the night of August 27, after a rally at which Gov. Peabody again spoke. The departure point was a playground in Roxbury, Boston’s main Negro ghetto, and crowds lining the streets and leaning out of tenement windows sent us on our way with much cheering and waving of handkerchiefs. We were similarly honored early the next morning as we passed by Wilmington and then into Baltimore for a hot breakfast at two Negro churches. A still warmer welcome greeted us when we arrived_ in Washington. THE DAY IN WASHINGTON was magnificently stirring in all respects. Never before had I been surrounded by 200,000 militant liberalsrather a contrast to my years in Lubbock! A palpable sense of fervor and urgency palpitated through the massive dignity of the crowd, animating that great sea of humanity stretching from the Virginian’s granite shaft to the shadow of the Emancipator, lending emphasis to the message of the thousands of signs floating on that seaFREEDOMDEMANDNOW. The empty buses were parked for miles along the capital’s streets. And the singing. The Boston delegation arrived too late for the morning concert, but as we gathered under shade trees on the banks of the tidal basin near Independence Avenue to move up the small hill to the Washington Monument, our singing started”Black and white together, we shall not be moved.” As we marched down with tens of thousands of others toward the reflecting pool, the songs welled up Julia Ward Howe’s battle hymn ringing across the century \(“the trumpet that and that great and poignant hymn-anthem of our contemporary moral revolution, “We Shall Overcome.” The professional singers GLENDALE FUNERAL HOME 1015 Federal Road Houston 15 Phone: GL 3-6373 We Honor All Burial Insurance Ed R. WatsonPresident at the Lincoln Memorial were hardly less movingthe queenly Odetta in an orange dress with her over-sized guitar booming out “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” Josh White singihg a piece by Langston Hughes, Camilla Williams, the plaintive Joan Baez \(` ?all your troubles evoking condescending pity, wonder of wonders, for redneck lynchers \(the assassin of Medgar Evers was only a “pawn in the Paul, and Mary singing another Dylan song \(“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind”; it was indeed blowing that day in Freedom Singers fresh from Southern jails, the ancient Marian Anderson once again at the Lincoln Memorial, Mahalia Jackson ” ‘buked and scorned.” The memory swarms with images from that glorious afternoon. Big Bill Russell of the Celtics towering above the rest of the Boston delegation ; the teen-aged girls in blue jeans and sweat shirts who had walked to Washington from Danville, Virginia; white and black UAW members chewing on cigars; a few young demonstrators waving signs while perched perilously high in the trees near the reflecting pool; the distinguished biographer of Justice Holmes, Professor Mark A. DeWolfe Howe of the Harvard Law School, with his lean, ascetic New England face and his tightly rolled umbrella marching beside militants of the Northern Student Movement; the almost courtly politeness of the crowd \(“Pardon me, please.” “SureMohammed Speaks \(they are always present at Boston demonstrations, including the one the night before, and they are now a standard part of the landscape in Harvard spoken with a Caribbean accent \(no, General Walker, not by a pair of Japanese students marching with their buttons showing the official black and white clasped hands; a decrepit white woman, her lower face covered with hoary hairs, helped to sit down on a step of the Memorial by her late middle-aged son and by a Negro woman herself past seventy; September 20, 1963 13 SUBSCRIBE OR RENEW THE TEXAS OBSERVER 504 West 24th Street Austin 5, Texas Enclosed is $5.00 for a oneyear subscription to the Observer for : Name Address City, State This is a renewal. El This is a new subscription.
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