A civil rights hero’s posthumous memoir a guidebook for at present’s activists | World & Nation

Rev. Cordy Tindell “CT” Vivian stood on the steps of a courthouse, advocating the right of every person to vote with “verbal nudges” if a sheriff literally pushed, hit and knocked him or her to the ground.

The Baptist minister and director of national affiliates of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had a group of people registered to vote on February 16, 1965 in Selma, Alabama.

“I had to get up again because otherwise people would have been defeated by violence. We can never allow violence to defeat nonviolence,” he wrote in the March 9 memoir, co-authored by Steve Fiffer.

The confrontation between Vivian and Sheriff Jim Clark has been described by historians as one of the most important moments of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, also because it was televised.

Vivian died last summer, aged 95, when Americans were forced to grapple with the emotional aftermath of the police deaths of George Floyd and other blacks. The pictures of demonstrators gassed with tears and shot with rubber bullets were a reminder that the wounds of racial injustice were never really healed.

Before his death, Vivian pondered his message of nonviolence for the memoir and how it is not surprising that the struggle for the right to vote and “all human rights systematically denied” has continued decades after his strike in 1965.

Reach people’s conscience

White America consistently says it values ​​the Constitution and the Bible, Al Vivian, the civil rights leader’s son, told CNN. And his father would say that “every argument we have ever used agrees with these two documents”.

“You find out what people say they value, you blame them,” explained Al Vivian, his father. “You are proving to them that either they are not what they really say, they don’t really appreciate it, or you are forcing them to prove they are.”

Vivian had only started writing the book in the last few years, which soon turned out to be challenging.

Fiffer, the co-author of the memoir, said Vivian was almost 94 years old when they started working together. They talked about Vivian’s life for hours, but as the months went by some of his memories began to fade.

However, his life experiences remained lessons from what it means to be driven by a purpose and obligation to ensure that black Americans are guaranteed the same basic human rights as white Americans.

Success! An email was sent to with a link to confirm the list registration.

Error! An error occurred while processing your request.

“It doesn’t matter if you are beaten; it is a minor matter. The only important thing is that you reach the consciences of those with you and of all who are watching – both the so-called enemy and those preparing it . ” Battle, and anyone else who might be watching, “wrote Vivian.

Al Vivian said many of his father’s lessons could help young activists, especially now that the nation remains deeply divided. His father was an advocate for nonviolence, education, and a man of faith. These views flow into all aspects of the book.

The memoirs tell of Vivian’s childhood in Boonville, Missouri, and western Illinois in the mid-1920s and 1930s. how he experienced racism in high school and college; and how activism took him to several cities in the United States.

“I was asked many times when I first discovered that our blackness had put us in a different position in the country. I always answer, ‘When I was born!’ It’s impossible not to know, “wrote Vivian.

His first nonviolent protest came many years before the civil rights movement. He held demonstrations and sit-ins at the lunch counter in Peoria, Illinois, where downtown restaurants wouldn’t serve blacks. After months of action, the organizers have successfully guaranteed them the service, wrote Vivian.

He also devoted pages of his memoirs to his participation in the Freedom Rides, his work in Selma as director of national affiliates of the SCLC from Martin Luther King Jr., and his efforts to separate St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964 while he was subjected to arrests and arrests was brutal beatings.

“He didn’t try to get into the spotlight”

“Dad always tried to stay in the background, it was never about him,” Al Vivian said. “He didn’t try to get into the spotlight.”

Throughout the time, Vivian shed light on the work many others have done to advance the movement, including civil rights activist Diane Nash and the late Rep. John Lewis.

Vivian died before they could complete the manuscript or discuss his life in detail after the mid-1970s. Fiffer said he wished they could have talked more about creating the National Anti-Klan Network, an anti-racism organization focused on overseeing the Ku Klux Klan. Vivian’s efforts to promote racial relations in the workplace and his travels outside the United States.

The author said he used some of Vivian’s previous interviews and messages to supplement parts of the book and add highlights from that period.

“While we all wish these memoirs were written years ago, we trust the following pages to portray the character and deeds of one of the true heroes of American history,” Fiffer wrote in the book.

While the memoirs are not exhaustive, Fiffer hopes they can inspire others to learn more about the late civil rights organizer, and maybe even write more about it.

Comments are closed.