The focus of King’s non-violent efforts had been on the south. This of course did not provide any relief for the African Americans who had migrated from the south to get away from the Jim Crow laws. The migration did not relieve them from discrimination.
Tensions boiled in the tenantment slums and this became evident in August 11, 1965 in the Watts section of Los Angeles when the riots broke out.
Dr. King traveled to Watts to establish and maintain peace. Upon his arrival, King found that his non-violent techniques were not welcomed. The Watts protesters had chosen M Malcolm X’s philosophy by any Means Necessary.
Malcolm X who had broken away from the Nation of Islam in 1964 was believed to be leaning towards the non-violence philosophy. However, a barrage of assassin’s bullets cut Malcolm down on Feb 21, 1965 inside the Audubon Ball room in Harlem.
Dr. King who continued to maintain his philosophy of non-violence prepared to take his techniques to the North. He chose Mayor Richard daily’s Chicago.
In Chicago, Dr. King experienced violence like he had never experienced in the south.
Back in the south, James Meredith took it upon himself to protest the physical violence faced by African Americans for exercising their voting rights by staging a one-man march against fear. Meredith was wounded by a sniper’s bullet.
After he recovered, Martin Luther king Jr. and Stokely Carmichael joined him on his pilgrimage from Memphis Tennessee to Jackson Mississippi.
Martin Luther King Jr. realized that it was imperative to address poverty and the Vietnam War. On April 4, 1968, King himself was struck down by an assassin’s bullet. Within one month, Robert Kennedy would meet the same fate.
Curtis and Mariah were saddened by the assassination of the three men and their admiration for them were evidenced by the framed photos Mariah maintained in their living room.
The riots, which broke out all over, the nation as a result of the King’s assassination was very disturbing to Mariah and Curtis.
On April 5, 1968 hundreds of Bennett college students gathered at the courthouse for a Memorial service for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Thousands gathered for a service at A&T ‘s gymnasium. A riot broke out when 2 white men in a station wagon fired into a crowd of blacks. Police, national guardsmen and students engaged in shootings that end up
wounding 2 police officers and injuring 6 protesters. A&T president, Lewis Dowdy scheduled an early spring break.
One month later, the African American community decided to join the poor peoples campaign established by King and his SCLC organization before his untimely demise.
On May of 1968 the citizens both black and white joined together and held a peaceful march in Greensboro to demonstrate their support of King’s non-violent campaign on the issue of economic justice for impoverished Americans.
On March 25, 1969, Curtis passed away from cancer. He was 81 years old. Mariah, Agnes and Thomas were now living without Curtis in their house located within a mile of A&T’s campus.
Beverly, Mariah and Curtis’ granddaughter was now enrolled as a freshman student at A&T. The daughter of Curtis Jr., and Alice Webb Bailey, had entered the freshmen class with Ronald McNair.
In May just two months after Curtis’ death a riot broke out on the campus. The tension setting off the riot arose over local Dudley high school administration’s failure to recognize the Claude Barnes write in candidacy for student body president.
Barnes was considered subversive and his name was therefore not allowed on the ballot. The student body decided to elect him as president through write in. The administration struck down the results of the election causing students to protest. The students were met with physical force and jailed. The protest combined with inequality issues spilled over
to the college campus.
Willie Grimes a sophomore student at A&T and a member of the ROTC was shot and killed. Grimes death c used things to spiral out of control. The city was placed on curfew for two days.
The Dudley disturbance also spilled over to the Junior High school located across the street from the all black Dudley.
Beverley’s sister was enrolled at Lincoln Junior High School. Valerie was in her journalism class along with Debra Lee. They were both writers for the school’s newspaper, The Lincoln Echo.
On August 18, 1974, Mariah died. Before her death, she got to see one granddaughter graduate from A&T and another enter the all black university. She got to see her grand children integrate the public schools.
She also witnessed white flight as black began to move into white neighborhoods. Her daughter Marie moved into an all white neighborhood. Beverley had married and she and her husband purchased their first home in Woodmere Park one door down form Sandra Hugh, Greensboro, first Black television personality. Beverly and Sandra had lived around the corner from each other growing up. Other childhood neighbors included N BA player Bob McAdoo, and
NFL player Vince Evans.
Woodmere Park, would experience white flight as more African Americans moved in. What Mariah as well Curtis would not see was the shooting of innocent unarmed protesters in the all Black Morningside homes by Klansmen in November 1979.
They would not see their granddaughter graduate from Bennett and becoming involved in Stem cell research at the prestigious Baylor Medical Center.
They would not see their granddaughter become a lawyer and family historian.
They would not see their great grandson become a medical doctor.
They would not see their great granddaughter establish her own blood bank consulting firm.
They would not see the erosion of the black neighborhoods as a result of middle class
blacks moving into white neighborhoods.
They would not see the crime and decay of the black neighborhood as a result of a drug epidemic.
They would not know of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
They would not see the black vote making a difference in the election of public officers.
They would not see a black run for the Presidency o f the U.S.
They would not see Ron McNair take his place as the second black astronaut to venture into outer space on the space shuttle-the same space shuttle that would take his life two years later.
They would not see Debra Lee become the CEO of BET network. A network established by black for blacks.
They would not see cell phones or the Internet or black billionaires.
Nor would they see Greensboro and Society Hill elect their very first black mayor.
And most importantly, they would not have the pleasure of experiencing Obama mania which led to the election of America’s first black President, something they never would have dreamed of because they were born in the era of racial etiquette.
Racial etiquette hasn’t quite disappeared but there is hope in our future.
I’m Yvette Freeman.
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