ST. PETERSBURG – More than 300 people from all walks of life, age groups and ethnicity packed into the Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum to commemorate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a candlelight vigil last Saturday.
The newly formed One City Chorus, whose goal is to create community in song by embracing diversity and promoting harmony, did just that as their melodic sounds filled the museum.
City Council Chair Darden Rice shared the Resolution of Remembrance, Rev. Dr. Doral Pulley gave the Occasion Prayer of Mankind and Council member Steve Kornell provided greetings to all who came out to participate.
One of the most heartfelt moments was the recognition of 10 heroes who gave their lives for the cause of civil rights. We are familiar with names such as Dr. King, Malcom X and Medgar Evers, but there are so many others who gave their lives to change the world.
The Woodson Museum reminded us of their names and honored their legacy by lighting a candle and telling their stories. Many people became teary-eyed listening to the way they were beaten, shot and tortured to secure basic rights for African Americans.
Museum Chair Terri Lipsey Scott read the stories behind each of the 10 civil rights activists who sacrificed everything for a brighter future for America.
Jimmy Lee Jackson – Shot at a march while trying to protect his mother from being beaten by cops. Known as the man whose death gave life to the Voting Rights Act.
Clyde Kennard – Could not be dissuaded from enrolling in an all-white college, so trumped up charges were placed on him. While in jail for a crime he did not commit, he became ill and was denied treatment for stomach cancer. After being released, he died six months later.
Juliette Hampton Morgan – A privileged white librarian who began writing letters to the local newspaper demanding fair treatment of black people. She endured verbal and physical abuse and attacks on her life until she resigned from her job. She was found dead of an overdose.
Rev. James Reeb — Was a white Unitarian minister working in a poor black neighborhood in Boston who heeded Dr. King’s call for clergy to join him in Selma for the march to Montgomery. While in Selma, he and two other white ministers left a diner and were accosted by a trio of white men. Reeb feel into a coma and died the next day.
Vernon Dahmer – Dahmer was a businessman in Hattiesburg, Miss., where he owned a few businesses, including a small grocery store. Focusing on getting black citizens registered to vote, he announced on a radio station in town that he would allow people to pay the poll tax at his store so they wouldn’t need to travel to the courthouse. Three carloads of Klansmen shot up his house and set it on fire. His wife and children survived, but he died from his injuries the next day.
Oneal Moore – Moore was the first African-American police officer in Washington Parish in Louisiana. He was shot and killed by three white men in a pickup truck.
Harry and Harriette Moore – The Moores were both educators and deeply involved in the NAACP. For their activism, they were killed when a firebomb placed under their beds detonated in their home in Mims, Fla.
Reverend George Lee – Lee was active in civil rights and involved in the NAACP, often using his pulpit to encourage his black congregation to become registered voters. Witnesses reported seeing several white men fire a shotgun into Lee’s car, and the tires on Lee’s car were found lacerated with shotgun pellets. His death was listed as an accident.
Jonathan M. Daniels – A seminary student from Massachusetts, Daniels responded to King’s plea for advocates to attend the planned march from Selma to Montgomery. While participating in a demonstration at Fort Deposit, Ala., he and 22 others were arrested and transferred to the county jail in nearby Hayneville. Once released, he was shot and killed trying to save the life of a black teenager from a part-time deputy.
Viola Gregg Liuzzo — The only white woman to be murdered during the movement, Daniels was involved in civil rights as a member of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP. She went to Alabama to take part in the march from Selma to Montgomery, and helped out by driving supporters between the two cities. A passenger in another car pulled up alongside of her car and shot and killed her.
The major highlight of the program occurred when everyone moved outside to the Legacy Gardens for prayer and contemplation. Saxophonist Justin Bolds played the Civil Rights Movement anthem “We Shall Overcome” as everyone held their candles high to the sky.