Last week a friend and I boarded a bus for Alabama in response to a telegram from Orloff Miller, SRL staff advisor, to participate in the last part of the march on Montgomery for equal voting rights (etc.) as representatives of Channing Club at the Univ. of Wisconsin. I met Orloff at a SRL leadership training conference in Cass Lake Minn. last summer. SRL is Student Religious Liberals, the Unitarian's national organization for college youth. Orloff was one of the two men with Rev. Reeb when he was fatally injured by an attacker in Selma Ala. (Max Gaebler, the local Unitarian minister, knew Rev. Reeb personally). Housing, food, etc. were arranged by the UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) and (in spite of bomb threats) the Unitarian Church in Birmingham for some 250 of us from around the country.
Friend Sue Reeve & I arrived in Birmingham about 2:25 p.m. Wed. and took a taxi from the Greyhound station to the church. We got to see a bit more of suburban Birmingham than we would have (at no extra charge) when the young Negro driver missed the church the first time by.
After an early supper at the church, and instruction in non-violent self-protection and how to cope with tear gas, police dogs, etc., chartered buses took us to Montgomery Wed. night for a rally at which Martin Luther King spoke and numerous famous entertainers performed. It started late & we left early to get back to Birmingham for the night (a 97 mile trip each way). Church families put us up in their homes. After a 5:45 a.m. breakfast at the church the next morning we again boarded chartered buses for Montgomery to join in the last 3 miles of the march on the capitol with thousands of others (march officials estimated 50,000) from all over the country. We collected on the muddy field of St. Jude's school where thousands had heard the entertainment the night before. Freedom songs were sung in one main group, and then in numerous smaller groups as we started to line up. Placards identified groups from Texas to Massachusetts. Before the march started I had a chance to talk to Rev. Edwin King of Tougaloo College and a couple of people I knew from Madison. (One works in Selma for SCLC, Dr. M. L. King's group, and one teaches at Talladega College (Negro), Talladega Alabama.) The march finally got under way some time after 11:00 a.m. Young and old, Negro & white, marched six abreast, with men on the outside, women on the inside. There was a young white couple on the other end of my row with 3 Negro girls of about 12 yrs. in the middle. The march went first through the Negro section of town, and the ramshackle unpainted houses were doubtless an eye opener to many northerners in the march. The very old and the very young waved & applauded from the sidewalks and from their front porches.
In the white section there were fewer spectators, and throughout the march we were well protected by the troops. The march ended in the broad street in front of the state capitol about 1 p.m. Speeches by most of the major civil rights leaders, Ralph Bunch, & others lasted until 4:00 p.m. Our chartered buses started back for Birmingham about 5:30, and that night we again had supper at the Unitarian church. Sue & I decided to stay another night and talk to one of the church families and a couple of students from the University of the South (in Tenn.) The family we stayed with was also harassed with phone calls, but throughout our stay in Alabama we were relatively insulated from the hostility of southern segregationists. On the bus back we had a chance to talk to the wife of an official of the American Friends Service Committee who had marched all (or part?) of the way from Selma. We got back to Madison last Saturday morning, and the following Sun. night reported on the trip to Channing-Murray Club.
A belated Happy Birthday Dad. Sorry I missed it. The trip was the main thing on my mind that week.
The main event on campus this week (other than the Military Ball last night and the Anti-Military Ball tonight) was the 10 hour "teach-in" in which some 26 faculty members presented their views on Vietnam and related topics. Some 900 students heard the final 10 to midnight panel discussion which was filmed by CBS news, reportedly for one of Walter Cronkite's programs.
I have written a number of southern colleges about a summer teaching position. There is a tentative opening at my first choice, Tougaloo College near Jackson Mississippi, in a National Science Foundation program in chemistry for high school students.
I am not presently planning to visit Minneapolis for spring vacation. I may go on a bus trip to visit Negro colleges in North Carolina & Virginia which is being planned by Wisc. Student Association Human Rights Committee, of which I am a member.