BETWEEN 1963, THE year of our “Then” photo, and today, arguably much has changed:
■ The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
■ The Voting Rights Act of 1965.
■ The Fair Housing Act of 1968.
■ School desegregation.
So why do we often feel stuck in quicksand? Protest signs spaced 57 years apart could have been written by the same hand.
Nationally, amid a vision of hope, the summer of 1963 produced profound turmoil:
■ On June 11, Gov. George Wallace stood on the University of Alabama steps, blocking entry to two Black students until the National Guard cleared their path.
■ On June 12, NAACP leader Medgar Evers was assassinated outside his Jackson, Miss., home.
■ On Aug 28, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place at the Lincoln Memorial, culminating with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s indelible “I Have a Dream” speech.
■ On Sept. 15, four young Black girls were killed in a church bombing in Birmingham, Ala.
In Seattle, 1,000 marchers gathered on the hot morning of Saturday, June 15, 1963, at Mount Zion Baptist Church at 19th Avenue and East Madison Street and were inspired by the words of Rev. Mance Jackson, pastor of Bethel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (today’s Curry Temple CME Church, at 172 23rd Ave.).
Jackson called for “a plan of action,” demanding fair housing and employment practices for Black citizens, whose 10% jobless rate tripled that of the city overall.
“The time is now or never,” he said. “We declare war on … America’s greatest enemies: discrimination, segregation and racial bigotry. … We will have to sacrifice and suffer. Somebody may even have to go to jail.”
Our “Now” photo is from Thursday, June 4, 2020, 10 days after George Floyd died as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. After days of angry protests, police erected a temporary barricade at 11th Avenue and East Pine Street, separating them from Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
Late in the afternoon, a small group carrying bouquets of lilies and helium balloons pushed to the front of the crowd. A protester shouted an obscenity, stripped to his shorts and hopped the barricade, hands aloft. Alone, he advanced toward a line of squad cars.
Behind him, the crowd seemed to catch its breath. Some pleaded for him to turn back and avoid arrest. Others took up a chant: “Hands up; don’t shoot.” Shortly, the protester was arrested and taken into police custody.
In 1963, King challenged us to envision a world in which we can “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Then and now, accomplishing that arduous task is our civic duty.
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