Posts Tagged ‘1950’s’

Dr. King remembered

January 18, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,  that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever you call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop

The Justice/Righteousness Struggle

April 9, 2018

Maybe it’s because I studied philosophy in college many years ago. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the deep south in the 1950’s-60’s. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic and then, at the age of 27 turned to the “born again” approach to spiritually.

Maybe it’s because I, like Jacob of old, have had to wrestle with God before I could let him into my way of thinking and doing. Maybe it’s because of Moses, or Paul, or Jesus himself that I had this wrestling session yesterday. For whatever reason, I spent yesterday, Sunday, wrestling with God.

Not literally, of course, but mentally, spiritually.

Let me try to explain this.

On Saturday evening, my wife and I shared an evening meal, and several hours,  with a small group of friends whom we have known and loved for a long time, since the early 1980’s. We are, as they say, Christians.

These are people with whom we have, on a regular basis, gathered, prayed, worked, laughed and cried, for most of our adult life. We have all raised our now-adult children together and released them into the great wild world.

My struggle yesterday was precipitated by an ethical dilemma. The problem was working through my mind all day because our host friend had shown us a video link. The half-hour online presentation introduced to us—and to the world, generally— a work of ministry that is being carried out by our hosts’ son-in-law, whose life and struggle is being worked out in his chosen hometown, Ferguson, Missouri.

In the video, Jonathan “JT” Tremaine presents some historical information along with some gospel enlightenment, and he then goes on to explain his vision for justice that is linked to a Christian call to righteousness.

As I ruminated all yesterday (Sunday) on what Jonathan had said, and the images he displayed, I became perplexed while wondering about this thorny question:

Just what the hell is justice anyway?

Is it equality instead of inequality? Is it income redistribution? How does this monumental concept of justice really play out in history, American history?

For many blacks, that idea of “justice” is defined largely by what color of skin a cop sees on the face of some citizen that he is trying to protect, or . . . protect himself against.

And how does justice relate to this “righteousness” thing that we so-called evangelicals like to claim for ourselves?

These are the two primary points—justice and righteousness—that JT raises in his podcast, and in his ministry in Ferguson, Missouri, which he calls “Meet me in Ferguson.”

For many people, especially honkies, neither of these issues is any big deal. Yet that unawareness—that insensitivity— is part of the problem.

The bottom line I’m working toward here is this. Both of these issues—justice and righteousness—are very important issues that we Americans must address if we are going to move forward in our great, historical experiment with democracy.

As the Hebrew prophet of old, Amos, presented a challenge to his people—and to all people throughout history. . .

“Let justice roll down like the waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream!”

This is a message of many prophets of old, and many modern prophets as well, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks . . .

And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK1

And Dr. Billy Graham.

BillyG

Say what? Billy Graham? What’s he got to do with social justice?

You probably didn’t know that back in the 1950’s, Billy Graham insisted that the ropes be removed—the ropes separating blacks and whites at his very own gospel crusades. And when racist ushers of that day refused to do it, Billy himself did remove the damned things. So that blacks and whites could, together, participate in the work of bringing in not only righteousness, but also justice.

And we are, y’all, still working on it.

Let Jonathan JT explain. This thing goes way back . . .

  https://www.facebook.com/meetmeinferguson/videos/618272528508148/UzpfSTE3ODQxMTQ5ODg1Njc2NDoxODI4MzQ4NjE3MTk2MzY5/

I’ll finish this struggle session with a song:

Mountaintop

Boomers’ Choice (reprise)

February 17, 2018

Is this world screwed up or what?

Tell me about it.

Nevertheless, there may be reason enough to find happiness,

contentment fulfillment and all that stuff

in the silver lining that highlights those dark clouds.

We baby boomers do have a choice, you know,

about whether to cry in our beer

or find cause enough to rejoice while

we’re here on planet earth.

Have a listen:

Boomers’ Choice:

Well, the boys came marching home from Germany and France

and the bomb had made a blast in in Hiroshima.

We were driving brand new cars; we were waving

stars and bars

and everywhere was another factory.

Back in 1953,

cruising with Dwight E.,

Elvis sang the whiteboy blues,

McCarthy looking under every bush.

In the home of the brave and the free

rolling on prosperity

and all the kids were going off to school.

57ChevF

Ten years down the road

another dream had come and gone

and the power of one gun had made itself known.

Back in 1964

big Lyndon opened the door

for civil rights and a bloody Asian war—

LBJ&McNa

young men on porkchop hill

young women on the pill.

At home they said don’t kill;

get a psychedelic thrill.

But the dreams of a woodstock nation

were just an imagination

when the boys came trudging home in ’73.

So it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home

and its hie hie hey, seeking light in the night of day:

the dreams of a woodstock nation

were just an imagination

when the boys came trudging home in ’73.

Well, it just don’t pay to sob;

guess I’ll get myself a job

selling leisure suits, maybe real estate.

I’m not moving very fast,

just waiting in line for gas

and Johnny Carson gives me all my news.

Back in 1976,

overcoming dirty tricks,

some were moving back to the sticks;

some were looking for a fix.

Ayatollahs on the rise

sulfur dioxide in the skies

and the system makes the man that’s got his own.

They say an elephant won’t forget;

let’s play another set.

There’s always another ghost on pac-man’s tail.

Don’t let this boom go stale.

Let’s find an airline for sale

or pop another tape in the VCR.

Back in 1989,

we’re living on borrowed time

getting lost in subtle sin

eating oat bran at the gym.

But there’s an empty place inside

and I was wondering why

these vanities don’t suit.

I’m going back to the gospel truth.

And it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home

and it’s hie hie hey, seeking light in the night of day;

There’s an empty place inside and I was wondering why.

These vanities don’t suit;

I’m going back to the gospel truth.

Put on your Sarejevo, Mogadishu, Kalishnikov and Columbine shoes,

for the way is treacherous with ruts and rocks.

Yeah, we figured out digits out

before that Y2K could spoil our rout,

but that 9/11 call was in the cards.

Did you consider the question of heaven

before the wreck of ’07?

EdselOld

Will you hear the trumpet call

from the Ancient of Days.

Our way is littered with freaks and fads

from Baghdad through our mouse pads

as the reaper swings his steely scythe

across our wicked ways.

And it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home?

And it’s hie hie hey, seeking light of day.

It’s a dangerous place outside

and I was wondering why.

This world don’t give a hoot;

I’m going back to the gospel truth.

  King of Soul

Prague

June 21, 2017

A decade and a half ago, I took a few post-baccalaureate courses at our local university, Appalachian State. I had some educational strategies in mind. Those plans didn’t really pan out. Nevertheless, what I learned at that time sharpened some research skills that had been dormant in me since I had become a worker bee many years prior, in 1977.

In one education course that I took, we learned about a strategy called Compare and Contrast.

In the  years since that phase of life I have found Compare and Contrast to be a helpful idea when describing any two things.

In this case, I apply the method to two periods of time that are described in a book that I am presently reading. Under A Cruel Star, A life in Prague 1941-1968 was written by Heda Margolius Kovaly, and published in 1986 by Plunkett Lake Press of Cambridge MA.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_a_Cruel_Star

HedaPrag

The book is biographical; its focus is on one period in Heda’s life in post-war Prague, after we Allies had run the Nazis back into their holes.

Heda Margolius Kovaly was so fortunate to be a survivor–an escapee, no less– of the Nazi concentration camps;  Her book of which I write, Under a Cruel Star, begins with a harrowing account of her ordeal in sneaking out of the concentration camp at a time when the war was not yet over  then laying low as she slinked through Poland into the Czech lands and at last managed to sneak into  into her home city of Prague.

When she got to the city, Heda found the whole place bound up with Nazi paranoia. Which is to say: the Nazis were paranoid of losing what they thought they had conquered. At the same time, the locals–the Czechs and Slovaks–were still paranoid because that’s all they had known for the last six years.

After a while, the the Russians came in and “liberated” the place. Thank God.

But they had big plans for eastern Europe–Communist plans.

In the late 1940’s, the Soviets moved all their control-freak gear and Party personnel into the eastern European nations, including Czechoslovakia, Heda’s home country. In Soviet-controlled Prague, Czechoslovakia, the bossy Russians and their local Czech lackeys slowly and insidiously came to  dominate every aspect of life, with an intent to show the world how Communism, as prescribed by Marx, Lenin, Stalin et al, could be be accomplished.

Long story short, they made a big frickin’ mess of it.

Heda Margolius Kovaly and her husband were right there in the middle of all of it in the early days of Czech communism. Rudolf, her husband was appointed to an important job, a real plum of a job, as a project chief in the Ministry of Foreign Trade.

In her personal story, Heda gives an account of how Russian hegemony became more and more secretive, abusive, and cruel after the Communist coup in ’48. People were desperate for some kind of rebuilding of life, and they paid dearly for their willingness to accept the Soviet prescription for a better life. But it did not work out that way. 

The flaws in Communist ideology drove Czech life into a real dead end. Instead of life getting better for all the good comrades, life in Prague got worse and worse under the enforced Soviet regime. Heda  raises the question of how. How could the Czechs and others in eastern Europe have been so gullible and vulnerable to the force-fed communism?

The main reason these people had been rendered so vulnerable to Russian control and abuse is this: they had been extremely traumatized and debilitated by the incredibly oppressive, cruel Nazi occupation from which they had been liberated. Furthermore, on that side of Europe, the Russians were the liberators; they ran Hitler’s armies back into their holes. In that first  year of occupation, 1945, they were heroes.

After the war and all that life-shattering chain of events, the people of eastern Europe were worn out, broke, busted and disgusted. For the Russians, these people were easy pickin’s, with their hands stretched out, desperately seeking help and some resources to rebuild their cities and infrastructures.

And looking for somebody to tell them what to do, since they were still in a kind of wartime shell-shock.

But Russians came in with an agenda. It’s called communism. And the Ruskies did not have a lot of trouble getting these desperate people cranked up on a little Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist indoctrination. Power pounces on  a void.

Tank

Why were the people of eastern Europe so vulnerable to Soviet hegemony?

Part of Heda’s postwar explanation goes this way:

“Usually, the reasoning went something like this: if for purposes of building a new society, it is necessary to give up my freedom for a time, to subsume something I cherish to a cause in which I strongly believe, that is a sacrifice I am willing to make. In any case, we are a lost generation. We all might have died uselessly in the camps. Since we did survive, we want to dedicate what is left of our lives to the future.

“This streak of martyrdom was stronger that was generally understood. People felt chosen by destiny to sacrifice themselves, a feeling that was reinforced by a strong sense of guilt that characterized many who had survived the camps. Why was I alive and not my father, my mother, my friend? I owed them something. They had died in place of me. For their sake I had to build a world in which this could never happen again.

“This was where the misconception lay: in the idea that communism was the one system under which it could never happen again. Of course we knew about the communism of the thirties in the Soviet Union, but that was an era of cruelty that had ended long ago, the kind of crisis out of which all great change is born. Who today would condemn democracy for the Terror of the Jacobins after the French Revolution?

“The most eagerly embraced belief of the time was that no national or racial oppression could exist under communism . . .”

A couple of pages later, Heda arrives at this assessment:

“It was an insidious process and as old as the world. Had it not been for the war and the overwhelming need for change, we would have seen through it easily.”

Now here is where the Compare and Contrast (that I mentioned earlier) comes in.

That naive willingness to accept the communist game plan was in 1945, immediately after the trauma and desperation of the war.

Let’s fast-forward to 1952, after the Communist Party had been been running their postwar recovery show in eastern Europe for about seven years, and after Heda’s husband, Rudolf, a dedicated, very intelligent, workaholic apparatchik of the State had suddenly been arrested and imprisoned without explanation, without trial, and without any indication of where he was being held, or how long he would be detained, or when he might be released.

In her darkest days of disillusionment with the dysfunctional state of the State, in the grip of despair over the unsure fate of her imprisoned husband, Heda begins a chapter of the book by providing this description of what Czech life had become:

“Life in Prague. . . had acquired a totally negative character. People no longer aspired toward things but away from them. All they wanted was to avoid trouble. They tried not to be seen anywhere, not to talk to anyone, not to attract any attention. Their greatest satisfaction would be that nothing happened, that no one had been fired or arrested or questioned or followed by the secret police. Some fifty thousand people had so far been jailed in our small country. More were disappearing every day.”

Compare Heda’s postwar description of the the Czechs’ willingness to accept Russian hegemony– when the liberated people were compliant to help bring in the communist agenda for rebuilding the nations– Compare it to her description of how things actually turned out seven years later.

You’ll find a big difference there, a huge contrast, like the difference between day and night.

But here’s the good news. In 1989, the peoples of eastern Europe–Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Slavs and others, cast off the chains of Soviet domination, and the light of liberty began to shine again.

We need to help them strengthen the good that was gained in 1989.

Smoke

How Future comes Present

January 11, 2017

InfoMcL

I was born and raised as a child in the 1950’s. During that unique period of history, the USA was growing in many ways. Our military infrastructure, which had been necessarily pumped up during the big war in the early 1940’s, was morphing into an expansive peacetime economy. While we had needed tanks, guns, airplanes, aircraft carriers, etc in 1943, by 1953 our nascent prosperity demanded automobiles, interstate highways, refrigerators, washing machines and all the features of what was fast becoming modern life in America.

In the midst of all that economic expansion and life-changing technology, television entered the picture in a big way.

My g-generation was the first to grow up with TV, and this made a big difference in the way we thought and felt about everything. Now no one really knew what to expect of us baby boomers, because there never had been before, in the history of the world, a generation of kids who grew up with that lit-up screen projecting the world into everybody’s living room.

So the old folks, most notably Lyndon Johnson, were taken by surprise when, in the 1960’s, half the kids had no interest in carrying on with the capitalistic crusades of previous generations. We had not lived through that earlier time–the 1940’s–in which the USA’s “greatest generation” had shed blood and sweated blood and shed tears for the purpose of defeating national socialism and fascism in the world.

Furthermore, we grew up with a TV in the living room, and that changed everything.

Now our children–the X-er’s, the millenials, etc–are manifesting a similar sea-change, as they are growing up, and have grown up, in the age of the internet. So it seems to me that my generation, the boomers, are now carrying the burden of watching a bunch of kids come along who have a totally different worldview. While we were natives of the TV age, they are natives of the Online age.

Now the question in my mind is, how will they be different from us?

During the past year or so, I have been studying the historical time in which I grew up, while at the same living in the present, and seeking to understand the times in which our three children (now in their thirties)  have grown up.

My research led me to consider the work of Marshall McLuhan.

If you don’t know who he is, but you are wondering, google it.

For the sake of simplicity in this presentation, I will say that he accurately figured out, early on, a few things about the effects of TV and radio on my generation. He was prescient, which means he could see where things were headed, where history was taking us, into a wide world of information exploration. Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

On May 8, 1966, while being interviewed by Robert Fulford on Canadian Broadcasting, Marshall McLuhan described future communication* in this way:

“Instead of going out and buying a packaged book of which there have been five thousand copies printed, you will go to the telephone, describe your interests, your needs, your problems, and say you’re working on a history of Egyptian arithmetic. You know a bit of Sanskrit, you’re qualified in German, and you’re a good mathematician, and they say it will be right over. And they at once xerox, with the help of computers from the libraries of the world, all the latest material just for you personally, not as something to be put on a bookshelf. They send you the package as a direct personal service. This is where we’re heading under electronic information conditions. Products are increasingly becoming services.”

*quoted from page 101 of : Understanding Me, lectures and interviews, Marshall McLuhan; ed. Stephanie McLuhan and David Staines, with foreword by Tom Wolfe

The above quote was spoken presciently by Marshall McLuhan in 1966.

Now, in 2017, here is my revision of his statement, according to how his prediction has actually played out:

Instead of opening the Encyclopedia, you will use your electronic device to key in a word or phrase for your search. You may refine the search including a keyword about, for instance,  the history of rocket science. The online services know that: you have an interest in physics, you’ve got a BA level of information usage, and you can lean on your device for any calculations necessary. In the blinking of an eye, the search results pops up on your screen. You choose, let’s say, the Wikipedia link for starters, because you know the site’s sources are populated by researchers and their databases all over the world. Then you get to pick and choose which linked info you want to include in your own work. This is where we have evolved to under “electronic information conditions.” Information has become both a product and a service.

If you compare McLuhan’s prediction with my interpretation of how this has played out in the real world of 2017, the textual exercise could be instructive about how history actually develops, as compared to how we think it might unfold: close, perhaps, but not exact.

And here’s something to ponder.  About nineteen and a half centuries ago, Paul of Tarsus wrote:

“For now, we see through a glass, darkly.”

Which to me means: we can formulate educated guesses about what the future holds, but the picture is not clear to us. So, what else is new?  It’s up to you to find out. My experience says this could take a lifetime of learning.

King of Soul

We Boomers wil have a Choice to make.

December 12, 2015

Well, the boys came marching home from Germany and France,

and the bomb had made a blast in Hiroshima,

We were driving brand new cars;

we were waving stars and bars,

and everywhere was another factory.

Back in in 1953, cruising with Dwight E,

Elvis sang the white-boy blues,

McCarthy looking under every bush.

In the home of the brave and the free, rolling on prosperity

and all the kids were going off to school.

Ten years down the road. . .

another dream had come and gone

and the power of one gun had made itself known. Then,

back in 1964, big Lyndon opened the door

for civil rights, and a bloody Asian war:

Young men on pork chop hill; young women on the pill;

at home they said don’t kill, get a psychedelic

thrill.

But the dreams of a Woodstock nation

were just an imagination

when the boys came trudging home in ’73.

And it’s hey hey! ho–is there anybody home?

and it’s hi hi hey!, seeking light in the night of day,

but the dreams of a Woodstock nation

were just an imagination

when the boys came trudging home in ’73.

Well, it just don’t pay to sob.

Guess I’ll get myself a job

selling leisure suits or maybe real estate.

I’m not moving very fast,

just waiting in line for gas

and Johnny Carson gives me all my news.

Back in 1976, overcoming dirty tricks,

some were moving back to the sticks.

Some were looking for a fix.

Ayatollahs on the rise,

sulfur dioxide in the skies,

and the System makes the man that’s got his own.

They say an elephant don’t forget.

Let’s play another set.

There’s always another ghost on PacMan’s trail.

Don’t let this boom go stale.

Let’s find an airline for sale!

or pop another tape in the VCR.

Back in 1989, we’re living on borrowed time,

getting lost in subtle sin

eating oat bran at the gym.

But there’s an empty place inside,

and I was wondering why

thèse vanities don’t suit.

I’m going back to the Gospel truth.

And its hey hey! ho–is there anybody home?

and its hi hi hey, seeking light in the night of day.

Yeah, there’s an empty place inside

and I was wondering why

thèse vanities don’t suit.

I’m going back to the Gospel truth.

Put on your Sarajevo, Mogadishu, Kalashnikov and Columbine

shoes,

for the way is treacherous with ruts and rocks.

Yeah, we figured our digits out

before that Y2K could spoil our rout,

but that 9/11 call was in the cards.

Did you consider the question of heaven

before the wreck of ’97?

Will you hear the trumpet call from the Ancient

of Days?

Our way is littered with freaks and fads,

from Baghdad through our mouse pads

as the reaper swings his steely scythe across

our wicked ways.

And its hey hey! ho–is there anybody home?

and its hi hi hey, seeking light in the night of day.

Its a dangerous world outside

and I was wondering why;

this world don’t give a hoot.

I’m going back to the Gospel truth.

Listen to it:

Boomer’s Choice © ℗ Carey Rowland 2004

Music and Books

You gotta respect yourself

December 14, 2014

I was in Greensboro yesterday, and visited Scuppernong Books on South Elm Street downtown, where I picked up a copy of Greg Kot’s excellent historical book about Mavis Staples and the Staples Singers.

After reading 40 pages about Pop Staples and his singing family, I was very impressed with these people, and what they did with their lives. I really identify with old Pop Staples, who got his young’uns started in music back in the 1950s, when I was a clueless white kid growing up in Jackson Mississippi.

Now everybody knows that Miss’ippi mud gave birth to the delta blues.

There ain’t nothin’ really wrong with the blues. I’ve spent many an hour myself singing the blues, crying the blues, being blue, and feelin’ that ole E7 12-bar a-wailin’ blues. Ev’body have the blues now and then, and some folks are born into the blues, spend their lives in the blues, and make powerful emotive music in the blues. But the blues is hard, and there are lifestyle choices connected to singin’ them blues that can render a life that is just damned hard, too hard.

Ole Pop Staples learned his blues down in the delta where he was raised, and he played along with them wailin’ boys, but when it came to Sunday morning, Pop took his wife and young’uns to church, cuz there come a time when you gotta rouse yoself outa that funky blues and do somethin’ right.

So Pop Staples got his younguns started out right in the musical life, singing in church, praising God.

Few years later, when they moved up to South side of Chicago , and them Staples saw deeply into all what was going on there in that big hub city of America’s stockyard-smellin’ heartland, and they heard Mahalia and sang with her and all that, Pop’s commitment to gospel music got stronger and stronger.

So he made sure his singing kids stayed on the gospel track, even though what they were doing sounded real bluesy, like his delta roots.

That man from the delta had a unique combination of blues and gospel runnin’ through his veins, and he brought his children on board that train. There wasn’t no one who would sing like Pop with his children; they were good at it. As we say in the Christian heartland, they had “the anointing.”

In his book, Greg Kot mentions on page 34 that, nevertheless, their first record release was a flop. After that, a certain record company was

“. . . looking for hits and encouraged the Staples to move in a rock’n’roll direction, according to Pops, but he would have none of it.”

And Pops said:

“. . .He wanted us to sing blues. He said Mavis could make a lot of money singing blues. I didn’t want her singing blues.”

Prodigy singing daughter Mavis agreed:

“I just enjoy singing spirituals.”

Some time passed. Then the singing had to go on the back burner for awhile. Kot reports:

“When the Staples’ contract expired in 1955, Pop returned to his job at the steel mill, in no hurry to jump back into the music business.”

But that little disagreement with the music professionals turned out to be just a bump in the road for Pop and his soulful singing kids. Long story short, here’s what happened later:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oab4ZCfTbOI

 

Glass half-Full

Jackson Mississippi 1963

April 20, 2014

 

In 1954, I was three years old. In that year, my parents moved from Louisiana to Jackson Mississippi. Our family of four, soon to be six souls, stayed in Jackson until I was in the sixth grade, 1962. Then we moved back to Louisiana.

All around us at that time the world was changing big time. I was, of course, clueless, being just a kid. Living in a humble, GI-bill enabled suburb, l and my whitey neighborhood playmates were quite insulated from the maelstrom of civil rights-fueled social change that was gathering momentum in Jackson and in the whole state of Mississippi and the South, and later the North.

I was in a Catholic school; it was nice enough, and I had some good friends there. Although the US Supreme Court decision,  Brown v. Board of Education, had established a legal  path toward school desegregation in 1954, I never saw a black classmate until I was in junior high school in Baton Rouge a few years later.

My first impressions of black folk in Jackson came mostly through our maid, Aleen. She was a very nice lady. Many an afternoon, my sister and I would accompany my mother as she drove Aleen home from her day-job at our home. Aleen’s home was what we would politely call the “other side of town,” although it wasn’t really in town, but seemed to me to be out in the country somewhere nearby. The vivid image in my child’s mind was of a dirt road lined by houses that I later learned are called “shotgun shacks.”

In 2011, Dreamworks released a movie about what was developing in Jackson at that time. You’ve probably seen it: The Help. It is an excellent film, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett and it absolutely confirms all my juvenile impressions and memories of Jackson in the 1950s. But of course, as I said before, being a kid I had no idea of what was really going on behind all that docile southern comfort status quo.

Recently, I have decided to write a fictional historiography about growing up in the South during that time, and about how being a born-n-bred southerner interfaced with what the rest of our country was becoming. This novel, my fourth, is tentatively named King of Soul. (Preview: I am not “the King.”) The book being written  follows the novel Smoke, which I have just published.

I do a lot of historical research. Learning about history is what propels me as a writer. I turn the research into fiction that, I feel represents a certain time period or zeitgeist. Finally I am doing one now on the actual time and place of my growing up.

My daughter Katie, who nobly attempts to be my editor, tells me that my protagonist’s depth suffers in the midst of all my fictionalized history. She is of course correct in this critique. Certainly I will learn the lesson of satisfactory protagonist development in this next project, instead of obsessing with making the history itself the main character.

To begin research I have picked up several books at the Belk library, Appalachian State University, here in Boone NC where I live, where Pat and I have raised our three grown young’uns. This researching will be my modus operandi. Before King of Soul is finished in a few years, I probably will have consulted with a hundred or more sources from that library, as well as our local Watauga County library.

The Kindle, and Wikipedia, and real historians posting online, and so forth are also major components of my publishing projects.

To get into the King of Soul, I am reading, among other things, Michael Vinson Williams’ opus of history research, Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr, and also A Circle of Trust: Remembering SNCC, by Cheryl Lynn Greenberg.

So, by doing, I am finally getting the back-story of what was really going on while I was growing up in Jackson Mississippi in the 1950s and Baton Rouge Louisiana in the 1960s.

I graduated from high school in 1969. What does that tell ya? Should be a fascinating period to reflect upon.

All of this to say: at the present moment I am here to share with you three of the most interesting historical facts I have learned in preparation to writing the fictional historiography.

1. From Williams’ book on Medgar Evers: When Medgar returned to the USA after soldiering to defending our country and Europe in 1946, he had to “go to the back of the bus.”! What kind of a welcome was that for a man who had survived D-Day and World War II in Europe? Mr. Evers went on to do very persistent, determined work in voter registrations in Mississippi in the ’50s and ’60s, and became a great leader in the civil rights movement before he was shot down in the dark of night by a white supremacist in his own front yard in Jackson in 1963. That was just a few months before they got Kennedy.

2. From Greenburg’s book on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC):  Through volunteering in the civil rights movement in the South, empathetic activists from other areas of the country learned how it’s done. For instance: after working with the blacks down south, Mario Savio took his SNCC experience back to Berkeley, where he lead the Free Speech Movement that soon initiated protest against the Vietnam war. Also, after working with blacks down south, Tom Hayden returned to Michigan and authored, with his SDS comrades, the Port Huron Statement which was the beginning of Students for a Democratic Society.

3.What I am seeing now about the time period is this: As the civil rights movement gathered steam in the mid-’60s, a rift developed between the moderates (such as Medgar Evers, the NAACP, Dr. King, SCLC, John Lewis, Julian Bond, etc.) and the radicals (such as Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, SNCC, Panthers, Malcolm X, etc.) This parting of ways is similar to what happened among the anti-Fascists and also among  the anti-Communists in Europe of the 1930s, a subject of my new novel, Smoke. The peaceful v. violent disagreement is also, I believe, indicative of protest movements generally, such as the two biggies: the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution. Probably the next revolution, too, whatever becomes of that.

As for me, the kid growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, well. . . shut my mouth, I’m a child of the South. But I’m a commencin’ to write about it. Thank ye for your time.

Glass half-Full