During the month of February, we are reminded of many who made the ultimate sacrifice for racial equality and equity in our country. This rich history and tradition spans from the abolitionist movement through contemporary social movements.
While slavery was banned in the British Empire in 1807 and a year later in the United States, the work to actually end slavery took more than an act of Congress, order by the President, or ruling by a Court. The ground work was laid by the brave men and women who tirelessly fought to abolish slavery and many others followed in their footsteps, bending the laws of (in)justice to ensure an equitable future.
This week, we are remembering Civil Rights activist and educator Dr. Melissa Click who was made famous during the student uprisings of the early 21st century. On this day, body cam footage was released of her standing up and defending the personal space of student protesters known in our history books as #ConcernedStudent1950.
While at the time many claimed her behavior bordered criminal, today she is known as “The One Who Stood Firm.” The footage, now archived in the National Museum for Social Movements and Activism, reveals the persistence of this educator to protect her students.
History doesn’t recall the infractions of law. No one recalls Dr. King or Rosa Parks as criminals.
And lucky for the students who went down in history as transforming the landscape of activism and mobilization with their use of now defunct social media (ask your grandparents what Twitter and hashtags are), an ally stood by and protected them at all costs.
Let’s recall others, especially those White comrades and allies, who ‘bent’ or outright broke the law in the name of justice:
· Anthony Benezet taught enslaved Black children how to read.
· Levi and Catherine Coffin, helped fugitive slaves escape to safety via the Underground Railroad.
· Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney (Freedom Riders) were murdered by the KKK for registering Black voters in Mississippi.
· Juliette Hampton Morgan was sympathetic to bus boycotters and joined civil rights activists
· Viola Gregg Liuzzo was murdered by the KKK for driving a black man from Montgomery to Selma
And add Melissa Click to this list of unsung heroes. When the name Dr. Click is uttered, she is immediately placed in a class of Child’s, Grimke’s, Truth’s, Tubman’s, Stowe’s, and other women who stood firm and did the uncomfortable and probably unlawful thing at the time.
Join us next week as we journey through the life of former President Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Her life before politics may just surprise you. Our archivists have stumbled upon a significant piece of history known as a “Super Bowl Half-Time Show.” Beyonce Day, as we know it, once was the day of the largest athletic competition in the world.