Wacky Wednesday: Lunch, Anyone?

Ok, 2 Dope Readers, we have a question for you. If you could have lunch with anyone–dead or alive–who would it be? And what would you talk about?

Da Realist 1

I am going to stick with someone living. For a historian, picking from people who have passed on presents far too many possibilities. I could never narrow it down to just one.

While there are many people I’d love to dine with, I would select Rep. John Lewis (GA). He is a civil rights icon, truly a national treasure. He has witnessed and participated in so many important events of the 20th century. The Freedom Rides. The March on Washington. Freedom Summer. Bloody Sunday. He was there for all of it.

Walking With the Wind:: A Memoir of the Movement, John Lewis and Michael D'Orso

Walking With the Wind:: A Memoir of the Movement, John Lewis with Michael D’Orso

I missed an opportunity to meet him when I was at Miami University in the spring of 2007. John Lewis gave the commencement address at graduation, but he also came to my department. Although I thought I was a logical choice, I was not selected to meet with him or show him around. Ironically, while he was touring the department, I passed him and his escorts (my colleagues) in the hall. They waved and kept walking. Looking back on it now, I wish I had gone to the dean and asked to meet Rep. Lewis. All he could have said was no. Or, I should have tried to introduce myself when I passed by him and my colleagues.

And what would we talk about? Oh my! Where would I start?  I would definitely ask him to sign his autobiography for me. From growing up in the South, to the Civil Rights Movement, to his career as a congressman, I’d be willing to listen to anything he had to say. I’d be honored just to sit and talk and share a meal.

dorothy_heightDa Hype 1

I could come up with a number of people that I would love to have lunch with, but if I have to name someone, I will identify Dorothy I. Height as the woman I would like to break bread with.

Dorothy Irene Height, who lived to be 98 years old, was a Civil Rights and Women’s Rights activist. She served as President of the National Council of Negro women for 40 years and National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Many sitting U.S. Presidents sought her council over the years. She was the special guest at President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration.

If I were able to partake in lunch with Dorothy Height, I would ask her what inspired her to keep working towards equality over the years. I would like to know what it felt like for her to experience the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States. Did she give up anything for this lifetime commitment to black liberation and women’s liberation? Were there times in which she felt like her commitment to one movement alienated her from the other? During her fight for equal rights, what was her greatest moments and what were her most heart breaking moments? I would like to know what this current moment in our lives feels like for her, especially given this very tough summer in civil rights.

Of course, I would talk to her about what Delta Sigma Theta meant to her.

Who would you have lunch with if you had the opportunity?


Revisiting a Civil Rights Icon, Daisy Bates

DaisyBatesThe recent Supreme Court ruling invalidating Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has 2dopesistahs thinking about the sacrifices of activists who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. For my current research project, I revisited (re-read) The Long Shadow of Little Rock  by civil rights icon, Daisy Bates.

Daisy Bates became a national figure in 1957 when nine black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were chosen to integrate previously all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. As the president of the Arkansas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Bates had been actively pushing the school board to implement and stick to a plan of desegregation to comply with the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In this memoir, Bates chronicles her experiences as she coordinated the activities of the students and documented the attacks on the students while in school.

In a show of massive resistance, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard on the first day of school to prevent the Little Rock Nine from attending classes. Eventually, the Nine were able to attend school after Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and dispatched 1,000 Army paratroopers to protect the students, but not before an angry, anti-integration mob had threatened the students’ safety both individually (Elizabeth Eckford) and collectively.

Adult Daisy Bates

Daisy Lee Gatson Bates (1914-1999)

Little Rock residents who supported the integration plan were singled out for harassment by those attempting to maintain the Jim Crow status quo. Supporters received threatening calls, and others lost their jobs. Daisy Bates had crosses burned in her front yard, and gunshots pierced her living room window. Finally, in 1959, she and her husband L.C. were forced to close the State Press, the weekly newspaper they began publishing in 1941, because of lost advertising revenue. (Daisy Bates was able to begin publishing the paper again in 1985, but this was after her husband’s death.)

In the foreward to the first edition (1962), Eleanor Roosevelt writes that she wishes Daisy Bates “had been able to keep from giving us some of her sense of her bitterness and fear in the end of the book” (xvi). However, I thought it was remarkable that a person who had endured the loss of her livelihood, threats to her safety, and attempts on her life remained so hopeful. Bates had a right to “question America.”

I had forgotten how compelling this book is, and I highly recommend it. It is an excellent read. And if you have an interest in books written by members of the Little Rock Nine, both Melba Patillo Beals and Carlotta Walls Lanier have written memoirs.