Posts tagged with "civil rights movement"

Freedom Rider James Zwerg: Solidarity in The Civil Rights Movement

James Zwerg (born Mar 25, 1940) is an American civil rights activist and college professor. He is best known for being the first white student to enroll at the University of Mississippi in 1962, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Zwerg was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and raised in a working-class family. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he became involved in the civil rights movement. In 1962, Zwerg decided to transfer to the University of Mississippi, a historically all-white school in the Deep South. His enrollment was met with violent opposition from white segregationists, who rioted and attacked Zwerg and other Black students.

After Zwerg woke up, he said from his hospital bed, “Segregation must be stopped. It must be broken down. Those of us on the Freedom Rides will continue…. We’re dedicated to this, we’ll take hitting, we’ll take beating. We’re willing to accept death. But we’re going to keep coming.” 

Despite the violence, Zwerg persisted in his studies and eventually graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1963. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Zwerg has worked as a college professor and civil rights activist throughout his career. He has taught at Tougaloo College, Mississippi Valley State University, and Jackson State University. He has also worked with the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Zwerg’s story is a reminder of the courage and determination of the civil rights activists who fought for equality in the United States. He is an inspiration to all who work for justice and equality.

The Killing of a White Civil Rights Champion in America

In early March 1965, a peaceful crowd of 600 people began a protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to show their support for Black voting rights. Police armed with batons, pepper spray, and guns attacked the marchers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge in a violent assault that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”

After the attack, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other organizers remained determined to complete the march. Dr. King urged clergy to come to Selma and join the march to Montgomery. Hundreds of clergy from across the country heeded the call and traveled to Selma; one of them was the Reverend James Reeb, a 38-year-old white Unitarian minister from Boston.

On March 9th, Dr. King led 2,500 marchers onto the Edmund Pettus Bridge for a short prayer session. That evening, three white ministers–Orloff Miller, Clark Olsen, and James Reeb–were attacked and beaten by a group of white men opposed to their civil rights work. The Rev. Reeb was struck in the head with a club and suffered a severe skull fracture and brain damage.

Fearing that he would not be treated at the “white only” Selma Hospital, doctors at Selma’s Black Burwell Infirmary ordered the Rev. Reeb rushed to the Birmingham hospital. After a series of unfortunate events, including car trouble and confrontations with local police, the Rev. Reeb reached the hospital in Birmingham in critical condition. He died on March 11, 1965, leaving behind his wife and four children. Three white men later indicted for the Rev. Reeb’s murder were ultimately acquitted by an all-white jury.

More widely reported than the death of local Black activist Jimmie Lee Jackson a few weeks earlier, the Rev. Reeb’s death brought national attention to the voting rights struggle. The death also moved President Lyndon B. Johnson to call a special session of Congress, where he urged legislators to pass the Voting Rights Act. Congress did so, and President Johnson signed the act into law in August 1965.

For more on the history of racial injustice in America, follow Equal Justice Initiative, (EJI).

The Long Road Of Being Woke


“Now the old men are folding their arms and going to sleep and the young men are Wide Awake.” – William H. Seward (1860)

The term “Woke”  may be wearing new clothes and taking on different meanings today, depending on which side of the political isle you’re claiming, but being “Woke” or “Wide-Awake” isn’t a new term or ideology. As a matter of fact, “Woke” has traveled a long way to meet the social media degenerates, I mean, generation intent on spinning the term to fit whatever cultural and political warfare they’re fighting from their keyboards and computer screens.

Historian and Curator Jon Grinspan captured some of the early movements of the Wide-Awakes in his piece for the Journal of American History titled, “Young Men for War”: The Wide Awakes and Lincolns 1860 Presidential Campaign:


The Wide Awakes were against slavery when they marched with torches to galvanize Lincolns presidential campaign long before the Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and other white supremacists marched through Charlottesville over 5 years ago bearing torches and terrorizing folks with chants of “Blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” 

Staying “Woke” has also been part of African American discourse, similar to how the Green Book was used as a guide for Black people to travel safely across America, the term was used to encourage vigilance against the onslaught of white oppression and domestic terrorism.

The Scottsboro Boys were nine African American young men accused of raping two white women aboard a southern railroad freight train in northern Alabama in 1931. The case, which lasted more than 80 years, helped to spur the Civil Rights Movement and helped to inspire several prominent activists and organizers, including being the inspiration behind To Kill a Mockingbird, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee. 

The landmark legal cases begotten from the Scottsboro Boys incident didn’t just deal with racism but the right to a fair trial. If you’re “anti-Woke” like the Chloroformers, whose opposing aim was to put the Wide Awakens asleep, you should consider this piece of America history before you rally behind the likes of a misguided and ill-informed Florida governor intent on killing truth simply because it goes against the blatant lies that feed his hate for the awaken ones who refuse to be silenced in the face of oppression, gender dysphoria and, or white supremacy.

The Scottsboro Boys collectively served more than 100 years in prison. This historical fact cannot be taken lightly. Black folks in America must be Woke in order to survive the permeating racism and discrimination that maintains its choke-hold on our nation.

When Lead Belly sang about the incident in his song titled “Scottsboro Boys” he encouraged Black folks to “Stay Woke” in the aftermath of the injustice.

It’s never too late to become a proud member of the Wide Awake Club because all people deserve to feel good in the world.