Ann Valliant
(Ann Valliant Springfield)

1964-1966, MSU Univ. of Arkansas, AR AL
Current Residence: Berkeley, CA

One Conversation, One Heart at a Time

I am a white Southerner, living since 1978 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

See my story on this website, One Conversation, One Heart at a Time told May 2013 to the Celebration of Unsung Heroes on the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Movement events of 1963 at the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, California.

Among the details not listed there:

I taught Spanish in 1964-65 to the 5th and 6th graders of the Black elementary school in Tincup, the Black area of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Spanish was not taught in the white elementary schools but was taught in the integrated junior high school. The idea was that the Black students would already know some Spanish, giving them an area of superiority to the white students. I don't know how well that worked out but I heard years later that Spanish words were a secret in-group language among those students in front of their parents.

In '64 or '65 a racially integrated carload of University of Arkansas students drove to Birmingham, Alabama, to help register Black voters. We quickly learned that half of us would have to hide under blankets in order to buy gas (this was before self-service gas stations) and hide in the car while the other half bought food. Blacks OR whites could buy, but not an integrated group.

Another integrated carload from Fayetteville went to the March on Montgomery that made it to the capitol, flying its Confederate flag, in March of 1965.

We stayed overnight before the march with families in the Black community. Before we left for the march, the woman I'd stayed with told me she would be praying we made it safely back home and a chill ran down my back. Driving west toward Mississippi, we heard on the radio about Viola Liuzzo being shot as she was ferrying marchers from Montgomery and it was a long long ride through the night.

My church wedding in 1966 to a fellow Civil Rights worker was perhaps the first large, publicly visible, racially integrated gathering of friends in Fayetteville.

Years later when I was asked if I'd been afraid to come out as a lesbian in 1970, I realized I hadn't been. Being a white Southern Civil Rights worker had burned that sort of fear out of me.


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