Civil Rights Songs in the Key of Freedom Still Resonate

“Precious Lord, take my hand. Lead me on, let me stand. I am tired. I am weak. I’m worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light. Take my hand precious Lord, lead me on.” In the movie Selma, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. calls Mahalia Jackson, the “Queen of Gospel,” at a moment when he is most discouraged. Over the phone, she sings “Precious Lord” to comfort him. For me, this was one of the …

7 Moments Boomers Will Always Remember

Seven enduring memories from our yearlong ‘Boomer History’ project: Promised a T-shirt and a dollar for showing up, 5,000 fans greet the Beatles at New York’s JFK International Airport on Feb. 7, 1964. The following year, on Aug. 15, “arena rock” is born when a concert by the Fab Four draws more than 55,000 fans to Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y. But nothing lasts forever. Preparing to release a solo album in April 1970, Paul McCartney says that the Beatles are finished. On March 7, 1965, …

Civil Rights Leaders: Church Still Stabilizes Black Community, Yet Shows Signs of Fatigue

Updated 11/29/14 The fourth and final in a series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. From the tragic 1955 death of Emmett Till to the civil rights battles of the 1960s and even to the issues of unequal justice in 2014, civil rights leaders say the black church has remained a headquarters for healing, rejuvenation and planning. “It remains our oasis in the desert. It remains our spiritual reservoir. It remains the most independent organization controlled …

Social Media Could Make New Strides for Civil Rights

Updated 11/18/14 The third in a series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom had used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media to draw people to Washington, what would have been different about that great gathering on the National Mall? That question kicked off a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday forum discussion this year. The conversation has grown from what could have happened …

Why Civil Rights Vets Keep Pressing On

The first in a series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The civil rights struggles of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s were largely led by youth and college students, many who were members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or the NAACP Student Council. Now in their 70s, 80s and even 90s, some view their civil rights mission as a life’s work with no retirement in the plan. “I still have an interest in my people, …

‘Drumbeat of Activism’ Still Permeates Our Communities

They called it Freedom Summer – 10 weeks in 1964 when more than 700 student volunteers from around the country joined organizers and local activists in a historic effort to end the vestiges of racial oppression across the South, including what PBS described as “one of the nation’s most viciously racist, segregated states.” That state was Mississippi. And before it was over, three men – James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner – were viciously beaten and killed by the …