I got involved in the civil rights movement while at Yale Divinity School. Arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 7, 196l, I was in the Jackson City Jail until our midnight move to the Mississippi State Penitentiary. After a few weeks there (I remember asking for bibles so we could use the blank sheet to make chessboards!), I went to Washington to talk with Senator Frank Church (I grew up in Idaho) and people in the Justice Department.
In August, after spending a hectic but wonderful week with Jim Farmer in New York City, I returned with CORE to Jackson. We had either to appear in court or forfeit the $500 bond that CORE had put up for us. Of course, that led to the largest freedom gathering in the history of Jackson, all on TV. The students of Tougaloo College were wonderful hosts.
I then went with a small group to Monroe, N.C., where Robert Williams, leader of the NAACP, was under attack by the KKK. There has been several attempts on his life and he had a stack of rifles in his front room. Three of us visited the local white church on Sunday, only to be ushered upstairs. But I have a loud singing voice and although we integrated that church (people turned around), reconciliation was not possible. We were worried when one of MLK's assistants was arrested and jailed - and the KKK was meeting that evening. As the FBI contact I duly requested assistance and fortunately nothing happened that evening. Our friend was released. After about a week, I had to leave for an internship in Instanbul, Turkey. The next day everyone was arrested, and shortly thereafter, Robert Williams and his family fled to Cuba.
On November 8, 2001, we returned to Jackson for our 40th reunion. Thanks to Carol Ruth Silver, whom I had not seen for 40 years, for organizing it! To see many of our old friends and to renew acquaintances was wonderful. So much has changed for the better. When people asked me "are you Ed Kale?" I was surprised to find out that my 1961 TV interview greets visitors to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
I have continued to work for peace and justice in England, Germany, Texas, Idaho and Minnesota. It was important to bring down the South African government, to opppose the Vietnam War, to stop the war in Nicaragua and now to oppose Bush's war against the Iraqi people. I will continue to work for freedom, and, yes, "We Shall Overcome."