Somewhere in America

Risking Their Lives

Lest we forget, it was not so long ago that Americans risked their lives to defend our dignity  and help to undo the curse of racial segregation.

I googled ‘lunch counter’ and got a number of these images. This is from the Smithsonian, and I don’t know the names of the young men or the exact place or year, but surely it was the South in the 1960′s.

Sometimes the accumulation of small indignities can become unbearable. Especially when the threat of major harm, and even death, is always in the background.  The men in the picture risked all for equal rights.

Politicians like to re-write the past. Because we have more social freedom, and we find it good, it’s comfortable to believe it was always this way– that reasonable people would always act so. But close to the time and place of this photo a 14 year old boy was tortured to death by grown men for stepping out of line. No mercy.

We love the Martin Luther King who had a dream. But look at the grim faces of these men, and remember that Dr.King faced threats to himself and his family every day, faced prison, and finally was murdered.

What we have now is hard won, and not guaranteed. Many living today remember segregation. Sometimes citizens need the government to step in when the rights of the individual are threatened.  The level playing field only exists in the ideal. Here on earth people need protection and justice.

FAMILY STORY: ten years ago I attended the Green family reunion in Montgomery, Alabama. It was my first visit to the deep South. Montgomery had a museum dedicated to the history of Rosa Parks and the bus boycott. My mother in law said, ‘It takes me back.’

She lived this history. Many Americans lived it and remember.

HISTORICAL VIEW:  An argument that libertarianism without strong legal protections for individuals is a pathway to re-segregation.

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2 responses

  1. If I’m not mistaken, that’s a photo of the four college kids who sat-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. in 1960. It took a lot of physical and moral courage to do what these kids did in the South of the early ’60′s.

    As an aside, the original counter is in an exhibit at the Smithsonian (American History Museum). I was there last month and there’s a very interesting presentation about the sit-in.

  2. Thank you. I was hoping someone would know the story behind the photo. Google images had a whole page of similar photos, and there were many sit-ins.
    I worked in a factory here in R.I., and I’m not that old. A woman working next to me told me she was barred from a chain store downtown because it was whites-only. I think she said it was a Kresges sp.? which we didn’t have then, but I found out there used to be one.

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