Test for Nonviolence — Birmingham, AL
I was introduced to the Movement in the 1950s by the Rev. James Robinson (founder of Crossroads Africa) when I was a student at Williams College. In 1961 when I completed Union Theological Seminary, I was part of a small group who joined in the Student Interracial Ministry. I became the assistant to the late Rev. Kelly Miller Smith at the First Baptist Church in Nashville. It is now known as the Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
In Nashville that summer, we received training in nonviolence from Jim Lawson and others. We focussed mainly on H. G. Hill, a local supermarket, marching for jobs.
John Lewis, Diane Nash, Jim Bevel and Jim Foreman were among the "known" people who were there that summer. Joe Carter and I "integrated" the dining room at the local Holiday Inn that summer with no problem.
My wife and child and I lived in a small house in the North East side of town and were happy to have C. T. Vivian as a frequent guest. We did a lot of dreaming then.
Later in Chicago, through the sixties, I became involved in the effort to replace Ben Willis as Superintendent of Schools and in other justice issues. I was active as a participatory journalist at the time and covered the enrolment of Meridith at 'Ole Miss, the aftermath of the killings in Birmingham when A. D. King's house and the Gaston hotel were bombed, and wrote an extended report on the demonstrations in Albany, GA. I also was in Selma the second week when James Reeb was killed.
During Freedom Summer I was in Oxford, Ohio, and then in Clarksdale. in the Mississippi Delta. I remember driving with John Lewis from there to Memphis, happily without incident.
During the late 1960s, after Jim Foreman proposed reparations and confronted the churches, I organized Jonathan's Wake to confront the white denominations in the National Cuncil of Churches at their 1969 convention in Detroit. This movement and much that Foreman did is almost lost to history now.
At the time, I saw it as a necessary effort to combat racism in white churches.
The magazine I founded and edited in Chicago, "Renewal," became the magazine of the National Committee of Black Churchmen during the early 1970s.
I miss those early days in Nashville and value my relationship to the CRM as the most important association all told of my life. I am 72 now and have worked 12 hours a day from Iowa on to help Barack win.