Another Good NY Times Op-Ed

January 20, 2009

Sorry for repeatedly recommending NY Times opinion pieces (I like Rich, Krugman, and Herbert; I could live without Kristol, Brooks, Dowd and…Bono?!!?), but Bob Herbert’s piece today is worth reading.  Money quote:

“I remember talking several years ago with James Farmer, one of the big four civil rights leaders of the mid-20th century. (The others were Dr. King, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young.) Farmer enraged authorities in Plaquemine, La., in 1963 by organizing demonstrations demanding that blacks be allowed to vote. Tired of this affront, a mob of state troopers began hunting Farmer door to door.

The southern night trembled once again with the cries of abused blacks. As Farmer described it: “I was meant to die that night. They were kicking open doors, beating up blacks in the streets, interrogating them with electric cattle prods.”

A funeral director saved Farmer by having him “play dead” in the back of a hearse, which carried him along back roads and out of town.

Farmer died in 1999. Imagine if he could somehow be seated in a place of honor at the inauguration alongside Dr. King and Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Young. Imagine the stories and the mutual teasing and the laughter, and the deep emotion that would accompany their attempts to rise above their collective disbelief at the astonishing changes they did so much to bring about.”

If you didn’t live through these times and/or you are unfamiliar with the Civil Rights Movement (for example, if MLK is the only major black civil rights leader you can name), now is the time to learn the history.

As an aside, MLK would be 80 now.  He was only 39 when he was assassinated.

He also gives props to LBJ, who next to Carter seems to be the most underrated president of the past 75 years (Reagan easily being the most overrated – remember, he told Gorbachev to tear down that wall, so Gorbachev did, and then the Cold War ended, and that’s what happened).


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