1966 Telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr to Cesar Chavez
Both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez became nationally recognized during the 1950s. King gained acclaim through his involvement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the support of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Chavez gained notoriety for his involvement with organized labor. He moved up within the Community Service Organization (CSO) and eventually became its national director. The fight to win union rights for Mexican American farmworkers won the attention and admiration of King. Chavez later left the organization when he saw the group did not have the resources and resolve to aid in organizing farmworkers in 1958. Continue reading “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez: Champions For Justice”→
Golden Asro Frinks (1920 – 2004) was a field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and a civil rights activist. Frinks was born in Wampee, North Carolina but lived mainly in Edenton, SC where he resided since the age of 17. He was named, “Golden” by his mother because of a “golden text” of scripture that was read at a church service she attended on the day of his birth.
Frinks was an unsung hero of the civil rights movement for 30 years; leading countless youth and adults; many of whom were African American and Native American. He was arrested eighty-seven times for his civil rights activities. A veteran of the United States Army, he served during World War II as a staff sergeant at Fort McCullough, Alabama. After his military service, he returned to Edenton and married Ruth Holley. They had one daughter, Goldi Ann Frinks Wells.
Frinks became involved in civil rights activism and organizing in 1956 in an effort to desegregate restaurants, theaters, stores, and other public spaces. He also led the fight to end Jim Crow practices. He used many of the same nonviolent tactics of civil disobedience used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. such as sit ins, demonstrations, protests, and marches. Frinks was selected by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr to become Field Secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); a position he held until 1977.
His unorthodox style was extremely effective and earned him the nickname of “The Great Agitator”. Frinks lead over a dozen civil rights movements during his career as an activist; three of which were on par with movements led in Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama. His activism was not limited only to North Carolina. A great deal of the organizing for the civil rights organizing in Selma, Alabama was conducted in in Frinks’ home. He also assisted with organizing the March on Washington. Leading efforts to advocate on behalf of individuals experiencing racial discrimination was also a hallmark of Frink’s activism. Joann Little was one such individual. She was an African American woman accused of killing the jailer who had assaulted her while she was in prison in the 1970’s. Frinks also advocated on behalf of the Tuscarora Indians in 1973; marching to the state capital to support the group in gaining tribal recognition as well as representation on the Robeson County School Board.
Frinks is remembered as having some unorthodox ways; frequently dressing in a gold colored jumpsuit or sometimes a dashiki adorned with gold chains with a cross. To energize meetings, he might jump on a table. At one time, Frinks set a coop of chickens free around a courthouse building in Alabama to delay the start of a court hearing; a strategy he may have employed on more than one occasion.
He also played an integral role in advocating on behalf of four black teenagers in 1993. The teens were arrested after a fight at a bowling alley in Hampton, Virginia. Frinks became involved on behalf of the NAACP over concerns that the charges against the teens were excessive. One of the youths being charged, was a local football and basketball standout, Allen Iverson. Iverson maintained his innocence; stating that he left the area as the fight started. Iverson felt he was being targeted because he was a “star”. He had been sentenced to five years in prison. Frinks involvement was instrumental in bringing national attention to Iverson and the incident. 60 Minutes covered the story and Governor Douglas Wilder would eventually commute his sentence. Iverson was then able to attend Georgetown University and play basketball. He went pro just two years later and experienced great success as shooting guard in the NBA.
Jimmie Lee Jackson (1938 – 1965) was born in Marion, Alabama. In February, 1965, Jackson was a 26 year old Vietnam veteran, a father, and the youngest deacon at his church. He worked as a laborer. Jackson was also an active supporter of voting rights. He had been working with other activists to advocate for voting rights in Selma and Marion, Alabama. When Dr. Martin Luther King arrived in Selma in 1965, Jackson had already attempted to register to vote several times. Dr. King decided to bring the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to Selma because he was concerned about the police brutality being experienced by non-violent black activists. He hoped to get the attention of national media outlets to the violence that was occurring. He hoped this attention would put pressure on President Lyndon Johnson to pass voting rights legislation.
Dr. Martin Luther, King Jr. shared the idea of the “Poor Peoples Campaign” at a Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) staff retreat in 1967. The campaign was to be a “middle ground” between violence and non-violence. The campaign would be launched with an initial group of 2,000 people who would travel to Washington DC, southern states, and northern states to advocate with government officials for jobs, unemployment insurance, a fair minimum wage and education for the poor. Continue reading “Poor People’s Campaign of 1968”→
Operation Breadbasket was launched in 1962 by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Martin Luther King, jr., stated, “The fundamental premise of Breadbasket is a simple one. Negroes need not patronize a business which denies them jobs, or advancement or plain courtesy…..Many retail businesses and consumer goods industries deplete the ghetto by selling to Negroes without returning to the community any profits through fair hiring practices”. Operation Breadbasket’s first leader was Fred Bennette. Continue reading “Operation Breadbasket: Economic Empowerment Program Of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference”→
On May 2, 1963 nearly a thousand elementary, middle and high school and college students in Birmingham, Alabama participated in The Children’s Crusade. SCLC staff member James Bevel proposed recruiting local students, arguing that while many adults may be reluctant to participate in demonstrations, for fear of losing their jobs, their children had less to lose. King initially had reservations, but after deliberation he agreed, On May 2, more than a thousand black students skipped their classes and gathered at Sixth Street Baptist Church. As they approached police lines, hundreds were arrested and carried off to jail.
When hundreds more youth gathered the next day, commissioner Bull Connor directed the police and fire departments to use force to halt the demonstration. Images of children being blasted by high-pressure fire hoses, clubbed by police officers, and attacked by police dogs appeared on television and in newspapers and triggered outrage throughout the world. The Birmingham campaign ended on May 10 when the SCLC and local officials reached an agreement in which the city promised to desegregate downtown stores and release all protestors from jail if the SCLC would end the boycotts and demonstrations. While he faced criticism for exposing children to violence—most notably from Malcolm X, who said that “real men don’t put their children on the firing line”— King maintained that the demonstrations allowed children to develop “a sense of their own stake in freedom”
Black Mail Readers: Would you have allowed your children to participate in march? Why or Why Not?