Civil rights candlelight vigil at the Woodson Museum

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG –The Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in partnership with The Florida Holocaust Museum held a memorial candlelight vigil honoring lives lost while fighting to be acknowledged as American citizens during the Civil Right Movement.

The program included State Representative Darryl Rouson giving examples of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s. eloquent prose, his wonderful sense of humor and his prophetic words by reciting excerpts from three of his speeches.

The night was filled with song and poetry reflecting on the movement and the parallels with modern society. Andrida McCall Hosey became Fannie Lou Hamer when reciting excerpts from her famous 1964 speech “I’m Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired.” And Gibbs High School student Jermaine Robinson performed a rousing monologue from the play “Fires in the Mirror.”

When Terri Lipsey Scott, chair of the Woodson, was asked to be a part of the Florida Holocaust Museum’s Civil Rights Movement event, she decided to do a roll call.

“Despite all of the photos and all of faces that you might see, there are names that have never been called. There are faces that we’ve never seen. I thought it was incumbent upon the Woodson to if nothing more than call their names and place a rose in honor of the role they played in the Civil Rights Movement,” said Lipsey Scott.

Scott called the names of individuals who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom during 1954-68. The martyrs included activist who were targeted for death because of their civil rights work, random victims of vigilantes and individuals who sacrificed their lives.

Rev. Geroge Lee, one of the first black people registered to vote in Humphreys County, Mississippi, used his pulpit and his printing press to urge others to vote. White officials offered Lee protection on the condition he end his voter registration efforts, but Lee refused and was murdered.

Lamar Smith was shot dead on the courthouse lawn by a white man in broad daylight while dozens of people watched. The killer was never indicted because no one would admit they saw a white man shoot a black man. Smith had organized blacks to vote in a recent election.

Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old boy on vacation from Chicago, reportedly flirted with a white woman in a store. Three nights later, two men took Till from his bed, beat him, shot him and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River. An all-white jury found the men innocent of murder.

Willie Edwards Jr., a truck driver, was on his way to work when he was stopped by four Klansmen. The men mistook Edwards for another man who they believed was dating a white woman. They forced Edwards at gunpoint to jump off a bridge into the Alabama River. Edwards’ body was found three months later.

Mack Charles Parker, 23, was accused of raping a white woman in Mississippi. Three days before his case was set for trial, a masked mob took him from his jail cell, beat him, shot him and threw his body into the Pearl River.

Herbert Lee, who worked with civil rights leader Bob Moses to help register black voters, was killed by a state legislator in Mississippi who claimed self-defense and was never arrested. Louis Allen, a black man who witnessed the murder, was also killed.

Cpl. Roman Ducksworth Jr., a military police officer stationed in Maryland, was on leave to visit his sick wife when he was ordered off a bus by a police officer and shot dead. The police officer may have mistaken Ducksworth for a “freedom rider” who was testing bus desegregation laws.

Paul Guihard, a reporter for a French news service, was killed by gunfire from a white mob during protest over the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi.

William Lewis Moore, a white postman from Baltimore, was shot and killed during a one-man march against segregation. Moore had planned to deliver a letter to the governor of Mississippi urging an end to intolerance.

Virgil Lamar Ware, 13, was riding on the handlebars of his brother’s bicycle when he was fatally shot by white teenagers. The white youths had come from a segregationist rally held in the aftermath of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombings.

Louis Allen, who witnessed the murder of civil rights worker Herbert Lee, endured years of threats, jailing and harassment. He was making final arrangements to move north on the day he was killed.

Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn, a Washington, D.C., educator, was driving home from U.S. Army Reserves training when he was shot and killed by Klansmen in a passing car.

Jimmie Lee Jackson was beaten and shot by state troopers as he tried to protect his grandfather and mother from a trooper attack on civil rights marchers. His death led to the Selma-Montgomery march and the eventual passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Rev. James Reeb, a Unitarian minister from Boston, was among many white clergymen who joined the Selma, Ala., marchers after the attack by state troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Reeb was beaten to death by white men while he walked down a Selma street.

Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a housewife and mother from Detroit, drove alone to Alabama to help with the Selma march after seeing televised reports of the attack at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She was ferrying marchers between Selma and Montgomery when she was shot and killed by a Klansmen in a passing car.

O’Neal Moore was one of two black deputies hired by white officials in an attempt to appease civil rights demands. Moore and his partner, Creed Rogers, were on patrol when they were blasted with gunfire from a passing car. Moore was killed and Rogers was wounded.

Willie Brewster was on his way home from work when he was shot and killed by white men. The men belonged to the National States Rights Party, a violent neo-Nazi group whose members had been involved in church bombings and murders of blacks.

Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a white Episcopal Seminary student in Boston, had come to Alabama to help with black voter registration in Lowndes County. He was arrested at a demonstration, jailed in Hayneville and then suddenly released. Moments after his release, he was shot to death by a deputy sheriff.

Samuel Leamon Younge Jr., a student civil rights activist, was fatally shot by a white gas station owner following an argument over segregated restrooms.

Ben Chester White, who had worked most of his life as a caretaker on a plantation, had no involvement in civil rights work. He was murdered by Klansmen who thought they could divert attention from a civil rights march by killing a black person.

For more information go to www.splcenter.org

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