As a young boy growing up in Madison, Florida during the 1950's and 1960's, I saw more injustice than I thought could exist in a country that preached so much about democracy, freedom, justice and equality. I saw policemen beating black men when they felt like it and for no reason. I was a victim of segregation, injustice, racial insults, and discrimination. I learned about the fantasy America in the segregated school (MCTS) I attended. I saw discriminatory signs all over Madison, Florida, 'NO COLORED ALLOWED', 'COLORED' and an arrow showing the side or back entrance.
Sixteen years of hate for injustice, segregation and racial discrimination had built up in me. On August 6, 1963, at the age of seventeen I declared war on injustice, discrimination, and segregation. I was arrested for leading the first sit-in at Robert's Drug Store lunch counter. My friend with me was taken to his mother because he was a minor. I was placed in the Madison County Jail. The deputy sheriff that processed me told me he would kill my black a.., if I ever did anything like that again.
During the night in jail, I prayed and I cried until I fell asleep. The war was on and God only knew I would emerge from it. After I was released from jail the next morning I began to organize a NAACP Youth Council. My life was threatened daily, some relatives disowned me. At the time I was president of the senior class at MCTS-1964, student council representative, captain of the school safety patrol, and a member of Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church.
I was constantly harassed by the black and the white communities. Several times I thought I was losing my mind, living under so much stress and threats at the age of seventeen. I was arrested several more times over the years and attempts were made on my life. Many times I could not eat or sleep. I do not know how I finished my senior year and did as well as I did. After I graduated from high school in May, 1964, I became a paid staff with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality).
May, 1965 the North Florida CORE staff attended a civil rights conference and workshop at Mt. Beulah (Southern Christian Institute), Mississippi. My mother was highly upset when I told her I was going to Mississippi. The expression her face scared me. She knew I would not come back from Mississippi alive. A week later I returned to Madison and my house was empty.
My family had been forced to leave Madison while I was in Mississippi. The hateful people took advantage of my absence and forced my family out while I was away. I lasted until September, 1965 and I had to leave because I could not take it anymore.
At the time my brother John was fighting in the Vietnam War defending democracy for the Vietnamese people, while I was being arrested, my life being threatened by hateful whites, police officers, and his family being forced to leave Madison as we made attempts to exercise our constitutional rights in the USA. This scenario did not make any sense to me.
My local Selective Service Board #12 made serious and illegal efforts to get me to Vietnam and hoping I would come back in a body bag. One way or another they were going to get me killed.
I could not get a student deferment, hardship deferment, nor be changed to a CO status. The local board stated that they could not give me a CO (conscientious objector) status because they knew of my personal activities in Madison.
I refused to go to Vietnam and was arrested by the FBI. The FBI informed me that I was arrested for refusing to go to Vietnam, which was a felony and in violation of the Universal Military Training and Service Act. I had to force a judicial review of my case. I received a copy of my complete selective service file and I was flabbergast at what I read and saw in my file: forgery, lies, misinformation, illegal decisions, total disregard for my rights under selective service regulations. The U.S. Federal Judge for the Southern District of Florida reviewed my file and saw irregularities, and illegal activities, and did not want to deal with it. He referred my case to the U.S. Justice Department for a complete review. The FBI never arrested any of the five members of Selective Service Board #12 nor the board's secretary for making illegal decisions.
The U.S. Justice Department dismissed all charges against me and my draft status was changed.
I have written a book about my experiences in the movement: I Have Never Lived in America.
I returned to my hometown in May, 1993 to give back to my community. I opened the Johnson-Brinson Center, after school program to increase educational goals, reduce school dropouts, decrease teen pregnancy, decrease juvenile criminal behavior, reduce violence and drug abuse. The local people were still holding grudges from the 1960's. My new book details my efforts: A Journey Back Home: The Story of the Johnson-Brinson Project & Break Away (www.authorhouse.com).
Copyright © David Dukes. 2015
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