Metropolis of Selma creates annual observance for native civil rights chief

Selma City Council declares March 15 to be FD Reese Day in the community. Frederick Douglas Reese was 88 years old when he died in 2018. He was part of the “Courageous Eight,” which played a key role in inviting Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma to join the struggle to ensure the right to vote for all. The works of Reese and his colleagues led to the Selma to Montgomery marches. Sarah Sherrill, an intern in the Alabama Public Radio newsroom, and Katie Shepherd, classmate, interviewed Reese for a radio feature that was part of APR’s documentary “More Bridges to Cross.” The program focused on the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” attack on Suffrage marchers in Selma in 1965. Here is an extract from Sarah’s story when they met Reese at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

(Reverend) Reese met us at the door. He was a gray suit. And his deeply wrinkled face looked tired. It was a sharp contrast to the black and white photos of him in the 1960s alongside Dr. King. He was jailed during the voting march …

“How many days do you stay in prison?” Asked Katie.

“I forget how many days I stayed there,” Reese replied. “But we were definitely there for several days. There were those of us who couldn’t sing as well as others. But those who could sing. We would sing in prison, pray in prison, and hope something would happen. ”

“I’ve heard stories of refusing to eat baloney sandwiches and cabbage vegetables when you were in Selma City Jail. Is that a true story?” Katie continued.

“That’s true,” said Reese

“Can you tell me more about it?” She asked.

“They tried to indicate that our staple food, collard greens and cornbread and so on, because we were in jail, were determined not to eat the food they prepared,” Reese recalled. “And then we look forward to the time we come out of jail and eat some of this good homemade meal.”

“It was … I mean, who can do this?” said Katie as we drove to our next stop. Who can interview the man who is Dr. King invited to Selma? It’s humble and I’ll never forget it in a million years. I will tell my children that. ”

The APR documentary “More Bridges to Cross,” including Sarah’s story, won a Silver Radio Award from the New York Festival International Radio Competition and a national Salute to Excellence award from the National Association of Black Journalists.

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