Lynda Blackmon–Lowery is the subject of the acclaimed book, "Turning 15 On The Road To Freedom.”
She was the youngest person to complete the whole entire historic “Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965.”
The attack by state troopers on peaceful marchers and the subsequent successfully completed march gained so much national & international attention it helped persuade passage of meaningful & historically effective Civil Rights Legislation that changed the United States of America, inspiring subsequent human rights movements worldwide.
During what became know as “Bloody Sunday,” Lynda Blackmon Lowery was beaten on the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridgein Selma, Alabama.
"They grabbed the front of my lapel… I heard that horrible n-word… I felt him hit me twice," she recalls of the attack upon peaceful Civil Rights Movement marchers, which meant 7 stitches over her right eye and a scar, and also 28 stitches in the back of her head and she still has a knot there too.
However, that didn't stop her from joining Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and being one of only 300 people that successfully marched all the way from “Selma To Montgomery.”
She was only 14 years old when the March began and had her 15th Birthday along the way.
The public revulsion to the violence like the beating of Lynda Blackmon Lowery on the Edmund Pettus Bridge were huge factors that lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Acton August 5, 1965, which ended prejudicial literacy tests and many other discriminatory restrictions.
The Law had an immediate impact, by the end of 1965 a quarter of a million new black voters had been registered, one-third by Federal Examiners.
By the end of 1966, only 4 out of the 13 southern states had fewer than 50 percent of African-Americans registered to vote and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was readopted and strengthened in 1970, 1975, and 1982.
This historic true story of Lynda Blackmon Lowery told in the book, “Turning 15 On The Road To Freedom,” has now been turned into an awesome musical play toured Nationally and will be Off-Broadwayin 2022.
Today Lynda Blackmon Lowery says, "I would like for young people to know that each day of your life is a journey into history, you have the ability to change something each day of your life. Believe it or not, it can't happen without you.”
Catherine Burks–Brooks, as an adult in Mississippi, a child in Alabama, a college student in Tennessee, and a Freedom Rideron the highways in between took an active part in making history by being an activist with great purpose and determination. As a young child, when a white-skinned man in Nashville threatened to stub out a cigarette in her face if she didn’t leave his presence on a public sidewalk, she held her ground and simply sang a Freedom Song, “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Many years later she heard about The Freedom Rides from future United States Congressman John Lewis.
The Freedom Ridesstarted on May 4, 1961, when 13 people, including Lewis, boarded two buses in Washington, D.C. bound for New Orleans, to bring attention to the federal government’s failure to enforce rules desegregating interstate bus and train facilities. Ten days later, the Greyhound Bus outside Anniston, Alabama was bombed and hateful mobs also attacked Freedom Riderson the Trailways bus and again at the Birmingham bus station.
But when it came time to choose the students who would take the first bus to Birmingham, Tennessee, A & I State University, Senior Student Catherine Burks volunteered, along with John Lewisand others. Seminary Student Paul Brooks (Burks’ boyfriend and future husband), sat with Jim Zwerg, a white-skinned student at Fisk Universityand the interracial pair was arrested at the Birmingham city limits.
The drama continued to unfold that summer, gripping the country’s attention, forcing many to see through their newspapers, magazines and on the TVs in their Living Rooms, the brutality and discrimination that the peaceful activists were experiencing. In the heralded Documentary Film, ‘Freedom Riders’, she clearly recalled an especially brutal assault on fellow Freedom Rider Jim Zwerg. Even so along with many others she went on additional Freedom Ridesand they were often arrested too, even serving time in Mississippi jails, as the mug shot now on display in her Living Room attests.
Catherine Burks–Brooks and 12 other Freedom Riders were expelled from Tennessee State, but she won a lawsuit and she earned her elementary education degree in 1962. Even though several had already died, Tennessee State awarded honorary degrees to all 14 of the expelled students in 2008.
Along with her husband, Paul Brooks, they participated actively in The Mississippi Movement when they moved there and helped lead voter education & registration drives and Co-Edited The Mississippi Free Press. She truly has lived a meaningful historic life.
Angeline Butler, a true Icon of the Civil Rights Movement, was an original Coordinator & Participant in the Historic Nashville Sit-Ins, a founder of the Nashville Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, along with 13 other Civil Rights Movement Icons such as John Lewis, James Bevel, Dianne Nash, and Bernard Lafayette, which led to the formation of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).
She also was a Coordinator of the 1961 Freedom Ridesand Voter Education & Registration Drives, a participant in the 1960 Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE) “Miami Summer” with James Farmer and helped with organizing 1963’s March on Washington.
Featured in numerous National Television Programs and Documentaries including NBC’s “White Paper Series “SIT-IN” 1960 and “Eyes On the Prize,” she’s received “A City of Nashville Award” recognizing her as an Historic Sit-In Organizer, acknowledgement at the Crenshaw School in Los Angeles for help founding The Martin Luther King Jr. Museum, and she received “A Freedom Flame Award” from TheNational Voting Rights Museum & Selma Jubilee, and the “2011 A Freedom Rider 50th Anniversary Conference and Reunion Award” in Jackson, Mississippi.
Angeline Butler has attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, then on scholarship The Juilliard School of Music in New York, also The University of California, Los Angeles, and Columbia Universityin New York to complete a Master of Arts Degree in Music and Ethnomusicology.
In 1957 she was chosen to represent South Carolina in the National Shriner’s Beauty Pageantin Philadelphia, and later in her life also went on to study acting at many prominent institutions and with many prominent instructors in New York City.
Her Singing and Acting talents have also led to a very successful heralded career in television, theatre, and as a recording artist. Including numerous appearances on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” and ABC‘s Dick Cavett Show. She also toured with “Johnny Carson In Concert” and worked with the late Great Duke Ellington and the late great Count Basie.
Her credits are extensive in theatre and in commercials, among them are Ireland’s Cork Opera Houseand Gaiety Theatre, a well known national commercial for Ultra Sheen, Joseph Papp’s NY Public Theatre, and as a recording artist her MGM Record “Angeline Butler/Impressions” sold widely to great acclaim.
Angeline Butler currently is on the faculty of The City University of New York’s John Jay College for Criminal Justice.
Paul LaPrad is someone who made history by demonstrating anyone can truly stand up, make a difference, get knocked down and get back up again to keep on standing up for what is right. The Historic Civil Rights Movement is not just African American or Black History, it is the History of The United States of Americaand the world, including ways many came together to nonviolently fight against prejudice and discrimination.
Since then it is often presented as a battle for equality that pitted all blacks against all whites, but that just is not true. Mahatma Gandhiis often quoted as saying, “be the change you want to see in the world,” and this movement for equality and integration was often itself integrated, involving people of both black and white skin colors working together bringing about positive change in the world.
In order to better understand how to work with individuals from varying backgrounds, Paul LaPrad, a white-skinned student from Indiana, attended Fisk Universityin Nashville, Tennessee that had a student body of mostly black-skinned students.
So since he was new to the area, mostly all of Mr. LaPrad’s friends were from Fisk. While this caused no problems on campus, he remembers being frustrated that he could not go out in the city with his friends. “If I did choose to go Downtown and go to a movie, or go to dinner or something, I couldn’t do it with my friends from school. And you know, to me, that was a bunch of malarkey [nonsense].”
Inspired by teachings from his church he believed in peace and love above all else, which drew him to the teachings of nonviolence and he began attending Mr. James Lawson’sworkshop classes for nonviolent direct actions.
On February 27, 1960, Paul LaPrad joined other activists at the lunch counter in McClellan’s store.
He was violently pulled off of his stool knocked to the ground, beaten, and arrested for participating in the protest. Of over 70 students that were arrested that day for Sitting-In to try to end segregation, 10 were white. Mr. LaPrad and the other white-skinned activists were housed separately from the others since even the jails were still segregated back then in Nashville, Tennessee.
Soon many were inspired to do Sit-Ins too to nonviolently fight for equality and integration. On May 28, 1963, for example students and faculty from Tougaloo Collegeheld a Sit-In at the Woolworth's lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi and photos of both black-skinned and white-skinned students working together successfully for some changes they won, continue to inspire many around the country and even the world.
King Hollands has lived a life of great historic impact, he was on the front lines of history as both a school desegregationist right after The Brown versus Board of Education decision and an original participant in The Historic Nashville Sit-InsMovement that within two months spread to 69 other cities all across The United States of America.
For decades he has been part of an informal Nashville Historic Civil Rights Movement veterans group and sharing his stories about the movement, inspiring others across generations, making connections to the struggles and successes of then and of now.
A childhood spent traveling with his parents and siblings across the U.S.A. and a house frequently full of visitors from around the country, gave a very young King Hollands a broader perspective about skin color than he had learned in Catholic School in the segregated South. But then in 1954, Hollands became part of the first Nashville integrated class after the Historic Brown v. Board of EducationU.S. Supreme Courtdecision, he was part of the historic first class of only 14 Black skinned students to integrate Father Ryan High School.
Six years later, King Hollands would choose to be a part of very impactful history again, when on February 13, 1960, he was one of the students from Nashville's Colleges and Universities who held sit-ins at ‘whites only’ Lunch Counters.
As Mr. Hollands and fellow students headed to Woolworths that day crowds spat on them, shouted and in some cases tried to attack them, but they were prepared.
One lesson he would like people to take from that time is that true change didn’t spring from spontaneous activism. It took months of training, education and planning.
It built on movements that had come before and only students who had gone through training could participate. CongressmanJohn Lewis took part and was among those arrested, as was Mr. Holland.
In February 1960, King Hollands spent two weeks in jail after his arrest for sitting at the ‘whites only’ counter at a downtown Nashville Woolworths Store. (Hollands still has the metal cup that jailers used to serve him weak potato soup for his meals.)
Three months later though they achieved a major success as Nashville desegregated lunch counters and restaurants, becoming one of the first major cities to do so in the southern states of The United States of America.
James Zwerg, in the early 1960s, attended Beloit Collegein Beloit, Wisconsin that shared a student exchange program with Fisk Universityin Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Zwerg, a sociology major, arrived in Nashville in January 1960 as a participant for the new semester, however, by the time he left Nashville photos of James Zwerg became internationally poignant and horrific symbols of the brutality some activists suffered as they took part in The Historic Civil Rights Movement.
Appalled by prejudicial mistreatment against black skinned people he witnessed in the segregated South, James Zwerg was eager to make a difference and he soon did and continues to inspire today.
The Freedom Riders Movementwas formed to pressure enforcement of the United Sates Supreme Courtdecision from 1960, “Boynton versus Virginia,” that interstate bus travel segregation was unconstitutional.
Mr. Zwerg’s introduction to it began when a couple of Fisk students suggested he attend ‘Nonviolence Workshops’ produced by their revered mentor, James Lawson, who represented the Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE), a civil rights organization headed by James Farmer that sponsored the Freedom Rides.
James Zwerg speaks of how in the 1960s, demonstrators and marchers contributed to the cause in a variety of ways, from disseminating newsletters about the movement to assisting senior citizens to beautifying communities on a grassroots level.
The day he first meet fellow student John Lewis they were together with a group of black and white college students trying to desegregate a Movie Theater in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.
So James Zwerg, a white-skinned guy from the North, had bonded with a determined movement bent on changing the old Jim Crow customs of the segregated south and during a Freedom Ridetrip to Montgomery, Alabama, he was brutally beaten by a mob of violent bigoted white segregationists; he had departed the bus first and was a focal point because he was white too and viewed by the mob as a ‘traitor.’
Photos of his blood-spattered body were published all across the entire country and around the world, including in many very prominent magazines of that period such as Timeand Life.
In 2015, Congressman John Lewis said of his friend James Zwerg, “We became brothers in a struggle. We are tied together. We gave blood together.” Today integrated travel is possible because of their brave actions.