My, How the Guard Has Changed
The following Southern cities played dark historic roles in the civil rights movement and
all received national and international media coverage. Most Americans of a certain age or awareness are familiar with them, but what ISN’T widely known is that today ALL of them are led by African American mayors!
As a reminder of those shameful roles played, here are some brief anecdotes:
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA 1963
- Fire hoses and police dogs turned on peaceful demonstrators seeking the right to vote and to be served at public lunch counters.
- Bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four girls.
- Current Mayor, Larry P. Langford
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI 1963
- Medgar Evers, officer of State NAACP, murdered in his driveway.
- Current Mayor, Harvey V. Johnson, Jr.
PHILADELPHIA, MISSISSIPPI 1964
- Three civil rights workers (Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney) killed by local Ku Klux Klan and buried in earthen dam.
- Current Mayor, James A. Young
SELMA, ALABAMA 1965
- Scene of “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965, where hundreds of voting-rights advocates were brutally attacked by Alabama law enforcement officers. Victims included present-day Congressman John Lewis (Georgia, Democrat).
- Current Mayor, George P. Evans
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE 1968
- April assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Current Mayor, Willie W. Herenton
What does all this mean?!?
When President Obama’s election is added to these mayoral elections, it should be clear that there is a great need for a societal assessment of these profound changes. Obviously, they should be documented in much greater detail than I offer in these anecdotal reflections. In fact, they should be systematically ANALYZED-and monitored.
I conclude with a few words of wisdom I have shared with certain undergraduates at Harvard over the years:
“A CHANGING OF THE GUARD, WITHOUT A GUARDING OF THE CHANGE, IS MOVEMENT WITHOUT CIRCUMSPECTION AND COULD WELL BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.”