Civil rights activists stand up to deputized goon squads

Civil rights protesters with helmets (Dan Budnik:Contact Press Images)  Mar 8 2015

This photo isn’t dated but it’s from the early Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery, Alabama where the 1955 bus boycott against Jim Crow (the US form of apartheid) launched that historic struggle which continues to inspire millions around the world.

Activists here are distributing helmets after an assault on protesters by a “mounted posse.” These so-called posses weren’t vigilantes but were deputized thugs, often including members of the KKK.
This photo resonates with millions of protesters around the world today who come to protests equipped with gas masks & use metal barriers against barbaric attempts to curtail the democratic right to oppose tyranny.

(Photo by Dan Budnik/Contact Press Images)

International Women’s Day tribute to the women leaders of the US Civil Rights Movement

Civil rights mothers (Dan Budnik) Mar 8 2015

Today on International Women’s Day, we honor the legions of women who have always led social resistance against injustice & tyranny but are written out of the histories. Since this is the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, we should recognize & honor the role of women in organizing the US Civil Rights Movement.

These are the church women of the Mt. Zion Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Montgomery, Alabama who organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 against the policy of segregation on public transportation. It began in December 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to cede her seat to a white person & ended in December 1956 when the Supreme Court ruled segregated buses unconstitutional.

Parks & these church women helped coordinate transportation for boycotters, spoke to meetings, handed out flyers, & used the phone in the days before social media to build what became the Civil Rights Movement. When Parks left Montgomery for Detroit because of continuing harassment, the church women celebrated her contribution.

During the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965, marchers were given respite at the church on their way to the rally at the state capitol on March 25th. The church building, now part of historic heritage, is decorated with murals depicting Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, & the Selma to Montgomery marches.

What should also be acknowledged is that the political strength of these women inspired many activists to build the women’s movement. Feminism is often ignorantly chastised as a racist movement for excluding Black women. But Black civil rights activists sure as hell didn’t need remedial education by white women to join the struggle against female oppression, just as they had organized the struggle against white supremacy. One could say they wrote the book.

Our deepest respect to the women who played a central role in civil rights & receive so little of the accolades. We celebrate them today.

(Photo by Dan Budnik/Contact Press Images)

Tribute to the unknown civil rights activists

Selma (3) from Life magazine Mar 7 2015

This man is one of thousands of unknown civil rights activists. Outside of this spread in the March 19th, 1965 issue of Life Magazine, little is known about him. The caption says his name is Freddie Bennett who turned up for the second Selma march on March 9th with bandages from being beaten in the first march on March 7th.

We should take a moment to honor him & the thousands of activists who were beaten & sometimes murdered but whose fearlessness & determination ended Jim Crow (US apartheid), changed the US profoundly, & inspired freedom movements around the world–in Northern Ireland, India, & African countries, & also the feminist movement.

Our deepest respect for their contribution to the cause of human freedom & social transformation.

Children in the US Civil Rights Movement

Selma (Dan Budnik) Mar 7 2015

Children were an active & vital part of the US Civil Rights Movement but they were also often the target of racist hatred–particularly in the violent struggles around school desegregation.

Every new generation of Black children poses a problem for white supremacy since they must be socialized to accept inferior social status. Very often children accept that degradation least of all & rebel in many different ways.

This is 10-year-old Quintella Harrell (center) demonstrating with other students in front of the county courthouse in Selma, Alabama at the time of the historic Selma marches in 1965. Fifty years later, when interviewed, Dr. Quintella Harrell said, “We heard there was a possibility that things could get better, that we could go to better schools. We shared that vision.” In 1967 she became one of six Black 10th graders in the first integrated high school class in Selma.

(Photo by Dan Budnik/Contact Press Images)

50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama civil rights marches

Selma march Mar 7 2015

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first of three historic Selma, Alabama marches in 1965 as part of the voting rights movement for disenfranchised Blacks & the broader civil rights movement. Activists planned on walking the 54-mile highway to Montgomery, the Alabama state capital, but George Wallace, the rabid segregationist governor of Alabama denounced the march as a threat to public safety & said he would take all measures to stop it.

The first march which began March 7th is nicknamed “Bloody Sunday” after the 600 unarmed marchers were attacked at the Edmund Pettus bridge as they were leaving Selma. State troopers & a posse deputized that morning by the county sheriff (made up of all white males in the county, including members of the KKK) attacked the marchers with billy clubs, tear gas, & mounted police.

The second attempt, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., was on March 9th with about 2,500 people but because they were under a court order not to march, they stopped at the bridge leaving town where the first protest was assaulted & turned back.

The third attempt, also led by MLK, Jr., began in Selma on March 21st with 8,000 activists from around the country. A federal judge had ruled that the Bill of Rights could not be denied Blacks by the state of Alabama & protection along the route by federal & military troops was pledged by then president Lyndon Johnson. By the time the march arrived in Montgomery on March 25th, there were 25,000 protesters demanding Black voting rights.

Photo is Selma marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge where they were first attacked by state cops & the county posse. It’s the cover of Life Magazine which included a spread on the march.