I was born of a white mother and a black father in 1961 in Southern California during a time when America was experiencing segregation across the nation. Although many of us in California did not feel the same effects as many of our relatives in the South, segregation was still alive and well throughout the country. The Civil Rights Movement was in its beginning stages and the 50’s and 60’s were pivotal in changing the face and climate of America. The Civil Rights Movement was organized by African Americans with the goal to help end racial discrimination and provide equal rights to all under the law.
1954 – Brown v. Board of Education
1955 – Emmett Till was murdered.
1955 – Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.
1957 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became a voice for change. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed.
1957 – The Civil Rights Act (to protect Voting Rights)
1960 – Sit-ins in North Carolina and the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed.
1961 – We hear about the Freedom Riders.
1963 – The March on Washington
1964 – The Civil Rights Act of 1964
1965 – Malcom X was assassinated.
1965 – The Voting Rights Act of 1965
1965 – The Race Riots in Watts, California
1966 – The Black Panthers were formed.
1968 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated.
1968 – The Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Housing)
These are just a few of the highlights that occurred regarding the efforts made by many to help eradicate discrimination towards African Americans (which ultimately would help all Americans). There were many (black and white) people that sacrificed and gave of their time, talent and resources to help make this country an America for all. The question today is: are we going backwards regarding the progress that was made just 50 years ago? When I look at some of the very issues we are plagued with today, I feel like time has stood still.
Sometimes I think it is important to pause and reflect on the past so we can remember where we’ve come from. Looking back helps us to remember those who have sacrificed for the freedoms we all experience today. As the granddaughter of Rebecca Ruth Reed Harris, first born free in our family (born at the turn of the century), I was raised with the daily reminders of a family that migrated from the South to California in the hopes of a better life. She taught me to be proud of who I am and to always remember where I came from. As I hope for the future, I can’t help but look back and say thank you to my ancestors (and others) who died so that I, and my children, can live in the hope of the dream for a better life. Thank you! #BlackHistoryMonth365
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