Southern History and Civil Rights in the News
22 January 2021
This week started with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, followed by Wednesday’s Inauguration. There were many stories about Dr. King, as there are every year, but I wanted to highlight two by those who knew his work most intimately. His son, Martin Luther King III, recorded a video about Dr. King’s “other dream,” that of ending poverty and income inequality. Likewise, Clayborne Carson, Stanford historian and editor of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., released another video tracing his own awakening to the classic civil rights movement to contemporary efforts. Additionally, several outlets reached out to both contemporaries of Dr. King as well as current activists to talk about the words that still inspire today. You can read the responses in The New York Times here, and from CNN, here.
Ruby Bridges is another civil rights pioneer that was featured in the news this week. She was interviewed for PBS by Charlayne Hunter-Gault who, along with Hamilton Holmes, desegregated the University of Georgia sixty years ago this week. Bridges also spoke to MSNBC about her history and the history that was made when Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President. Speaking of the inauguration, one of the rites of passage for the incoming president is redecorating the Oval Office. NBC News reports that the new touches include a bust of civil rights and labor organizer César Chávez prominently displayed directly behind the Resolute Desk, while Reuters noted that Rosa Parks and other civil rights leaders are featured as well, signaling that civil rights is a priority for the incoming administration.
Raphael Warnock was sworn in as Georgia’s first Black senator on Wednesday as well. William Sturkey, historian at UNC at Chapel Hill, wrote about his election in The Washington Post, comparing this moment to that of the first Black senator Hiram Revels, appointed from Mississippi 150 years ago, noting that while this is indeed a watershed moment, “history tells us that it is fragile.”
Finally this week, WSB-TV of Atlanta reported that Henry Aaron, long-time voice in the civil rights movement, and one of baseball’s all-time greats, passed away at 86 today.
Until next week, stay well,
Michele “Scout” Johnson
This series of weekly posts to H-South, “Southern History and Civil Rights in the News,” aims to track informed public discussions of southern history and civil rights. To recommend a reading, please email Dr. Michele Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.