Surviving History.

Rev. Dr. Harry Blake
Rev. Dr. Harry Blake was brutally assaulted by mounted officers in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1963. The event launched the North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition.

Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with my mother. I asked what she had been up to and she told me how she has been busy attending events in celebration of the 50 year anniversary of the North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition. It was a pivotal point in the Civil Rights movement in Shreveport, Louisiana.  On September 22, 1963,  a nonviolent march had been planned in response to the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama. SCLC field secretary Rev. Dr. Harry Blake tried to call off the march after then police commissioner George D’Artois had threatened to throw anyone participating in the march in jail. Policemen rode into the sanctuary on horseback beating people and made their best effort to beat Blake to death. The savagery of the beating and the disregard by the Shreveport police of the sanctity of the church led to the formation of the coalition. Great strides have been made, but Shreveport did not get it’s first mayor of African descent until 2006. Some would say better late than ever.

Meanwhile, back in the Pacific Northwest, my husband and I got the opportunity to see Lee Daniels’ The Butler. The film had good butlerposterperformances and had a lot of story elements that i could identify with and recall my parents relating to me about in terms of the era of the beginning of the dismantling of Jim Crow. Eugene Allen was the butler, on whose life the film was um, based. He worked for the White House for 34 years, from Truman to Reagan and never missed a day of work. He was born to sharecroppers in Virginia (not Georgia like the movie) and was married to Helene (not Gloria) for 65 years. He got to meet Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Duke Ellington, flew to Europe with President Richard Nixon and had his birthday celebrated with President Gerald Ford. He also declined an invitation to President John F. Kennedy’s funeral (in order to serve those who had attended) and accepted a VIP invitation (and marine escort) to the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

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