One of the things that concerns me as I study history and other social sciences is that it seems that we are very close to forgetting things that aren’t familiar; or rather, that we are less prone to explore the unknown. For example, we rightfully give credit to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. for their successful efforts with the Civil Rights Movement; however, we oftentimes fail to study our own local civil rights heroes or those who fought alongside the likes of Parks and King; thus giving them the majority of the credit for a movement that involved thousands of people.
I was reminded of the importance of learning our own local history after reading this article in today’s News and Observer. The article details how a man worked tirelessly to get recognition for his parents for their unsuccessful attempts to integrate the Raleigh School System in the 1950s. His efforts recently landed his parents in the Raleigh Hall of Fame.
While it’s not about recognition- I’m a firm believer that we must let our convictions dictate our actions, not our desire to get credit for what we’ve done, I’m glad that his work paid off. We need to know that there were others who were involved in the struggle in our local communities, and we have to be willing to call it to the attention of others. Yes, Dr. King did monumental things for the movement. So did Rosa Parks. And Ralph Abernathy, Joseph Lowery, Anne Moody, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, and Eldridge Cleaver. But what about people like Howard Lee, Daisy Bates, and Floyd McKissick? Or those people who’s names will never be known, but they participated in the movement in some small way- helping to mail letters, paint posters, providing food and shelter for others, or continued to return to the segregated system they faced with a determination that they weren’t gonna let nobody turn them around?
Yes, we must remember them too.