Today and throughout February, I am posting brief excerpts from my upcoming memoir, “Coming Full Circle — From Jim Crow to Journalism.”
I stepped into adulthood crossing the bridge between full segregation in the South and the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I attended some of the Movement’s mass meetings at churches in Savannah and later as a student at Spelman College in Atlanta, where I had the chance to see Dr. King speak at a standing-room-only and spiritually rousing Sunday evening service at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, across the street from Morehouse College.
The Civil Rights Movement left me appreciative of the right to worship God without fear of reprisal, to vote without fear of sanction, grateful for the five freedoms in the First Amendment and the ability to celebrate the fact that I can go to any school or work in any place where I am qualified to be there.
Members of my own family suffered the indignities of segregation. Others joined the NAACP and became part of the solution, as exhibited by the collection of loving cup trophies always displayed on the living room mantle in my grandmother’s house. When the time came me to vote, I couldn’t wait to register and I have never not voted in a statewide or national election in the eight states in which I have worked and lived since turning 18. I know that too many people were hosed down, attacked by dogs, beaten or shot to understand why any citizen would miss an opportunity to submit a ballot of their preferences for political representation.
In Savannah, I grew up in a solidly middle class and well-educated family. Yet, we endured the city’s separate and sub par facilities for education, shopping, dining, medical care, neighborhoods and negative media coverage. Somehow, I made it into journalism despite growing up in a place where there were no African American or female journalism role models. Newspaper and television news ranks were filled with white men. As a black female, I knew it was different for us. But I wonder how many, like me, feared just how different.
Next: Teachers educated “Up North”