THE FIRST 11 COMMENTS WERE MADE IN 2005
(click on images to make them larger)
This post is by no means an attempt to 'recap' the Civil Rights Movement or the Vietnam war and its aftermath. Rather, it's a brief slice of my experience of both times in photo and text. This was prompted by requests by some readers to share more of my protest days after I posted a photo from the People's Revolutionary March in my commune blog post, further down. While I protested injustice and I protested the war, I don't see myself as a hard core protester. Had I been, I would've been down in Selma. I would've done more in general. With regards to the Vietnam part of the post, enough debates have raged about whether that war was 'right' or 'wrong'. This post isn't about that debate.
I still have a copy of this flyer. I was living with an interacial group, working and studying in Manhattan the summer before I attended graduate school when this march was planned. Little did I know when I read this flyer and decided to attend that it would attract such massive numbers of people, estimated as high as 300,000 or more to Washington that day, or that it would become such a historical event. I rode down on a chartered bus from Manhattan. What struck me with most impact was the joy I saw in the faces in the crowds extending from the Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. People were laughing, crying, hugging...That day, we believed anything was possible.
Our group living tied into the whole experience. We didn't form friendships based on race, as might have been expected, but on compatablity. For me, that made the summer program a success.
Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary were among the singers who preceded Martin Luther King's speech.
Martin Luther King was the last speaker of the day, his I Have A Dream speech becoming a hallmark in freedom speeches over the years. I still remember how he mesmerized the crowds that day. A marvelous orator. A man who believed his dream would come true in his lifetime. He amazed me.
My father was school superintendent in the South and in charge of carrying out integration in his schools when I attended the March. Already, he and my mother were receiving death threats and I remember him asking me that, if I went, to avoid any TV cameras, as it could make his situation even more dangerous. The irony of his situation is that both were long-time church members and my mother had to stop singing in the church choir, she received so much ostracism whenever she entered the choir loft. My opinion? The churches should have been the first to integrate and support the movement. Not!
I met Claude Brown at a Menningers Party at APA in Washington in the early seventies. By then, his Manchild in the Promised Land had been a smashing hit. I loved that book. He and I began talking and couldn't stop, so he invited me to spend the next day with him, driving around Washington as he visited his old radical buddies from his Howard University days. It was a shock to read that he died a few years ago in his early sixties. He was a charismatic man, a brilliant man who survived a hellish beginning and lived to tell about it. We shared the day, had a wonderful time, said our goodbyes and I never saw him again.
Photo courtesy of Gary Jacobson from his Vietnam pages. Both my husband and his brother were in Vietnam, but I have no photos from Vietnam from either of them_only shots from refueling trips to the Philippines and R&R in Hong Kong.
My husband was a junior officer on a supply ship, the USS Genesee, this side of the DMZ. The one time they had to go up into the river, they were shelled. I remember his letter...'they were trying to kill me...they were trying to kill me'. Two men were killed and a shell destroyed the officer's mess room. They were fortunate that they didn't lose more. This shot is taken from a naval archive website of the ship in port in 1969 upon its return from Vietnam right after we left Hawaii.An account of the shelling is found HERE.
His brother was in the jungles but had no night patrol since he was made company clerk, being the only man who could type. It was from him that I heard the worst stories...kids and women lobbing grenades, his buddies going out and not coming back or coming back with ears strung on their belt; the heads on poles, the fragging of unpopular officers. Stories so painful I could hardly bear to hear them. I couldn't imagine living them. That was really when I knew I had to do whatever small things I could do to stop the war and bring these men home. As Jon Voight said in Coming Home (rephrased), 'we not only had to live with what was done to us, but what we did over there'. Killing leaves a mark that's hard to leave behind.
My part in the protests came by writing endless letters and, finally, attending the People's Revolutionary March in Concord, which is pictured in my commune blog below and again here. I didn't take any photos of the march, itself. I don't know that any of our individual acts made any difference, but, overall, the mood of the country was not one to support war and so it eventually ended. The suicide rate of Vietnam vets has already outnumbered those killed in the war.
At the time, most protesters blamed the Vets. Now we know this was inexcusable. I knew it then, having loved men in that war, but sometimes insight comes late. In general, it was a time of protesting everything. Bonfires were held for draft card burning. Bras were burned or not worn. Women refused to shave their legs or under their arms. Men refused to cut their hair.
Hair burst on the scene as a musical in San Francisco, which I saw in 1969 enroute from Honolulu to Newport, while the Beatles sang about Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert were transforming themselves via LSD into Gurus at Harvard (and were eventually fired). Living in Boston, I had one foot in that world and the other foot in the world of my work and men with shorter hair and women who wore bras and shaved their legs. It was a crazy, confusing, unsettling time, but I wouldn't trade being a part of it for anything.