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The Daily Tar Heel Thursday, Janaury 15, 19877
6The Daily Tar HeelThursday, Janaury 15, 1987
By DENISE SMITHERMAN
Special to the DTH
Despite boasting degrees from
such universities as Harvard and Cal
Berkeley. UNC history professor Nell
Painter credits federal legislative
action with launching her academic
"Believe me, if it weren't for
affirmative action, I wouldn't be
teaching at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill," Painter
But legislative and judicial action
has not eradicated fundamental
socio-economic problems afflicting
much of black America, say three
civil rights experts who observed the
civil rights movement of the '60s and
follow its effects today. These experts
attribute subtle messages issued by
the leadership of the Reagan admin
istration for compounding those
"The climate of culture is such now
that it gives a license to a resurgence
of prejudice and discrimination,"
UNC history professor Joel William
son said. "A great example is the
cutting down on programs for the
Painter labels the United States of
the 1987 "a racist country." While
today's civil rights issues do not evoke
the extensive protests and marches
of the '60s, racism in America still
remains, and extreme accounts of
t , "V . I
I W"' I ff
I A ' o
" St) f
'' " -
A Carrboro man is removed by police during a 1963 civil
nviil raigMs takes
racism receive prominent national
news coverage. Three incidents
within the last six months depict
radical displays of racism.
B Aug. 28: Four white men in
Toledo, Ohio, were linked to shotgun .
attacks on the houses of two black
families living, in white neighbor
hoods. A cross was burned at the
house of another black family in the
same neighborhood, and windows
were broken at the new home of a
black family in another
B Nov. 14: United Press Interna
tional reported that a black cadet at
The Citadel left the South Carolina
military school after being harassed
in his room by five white cadets
dressed as Ku Klux Klansmen.
B Dec. 20: Michael Griffith, a 23-year-old
black man and his two black
companions were beaten by as many
as a dozen white men after their car
broke down in the predominantly
white, middle-class neighborhood of
Howard Beach, N.Y. Griffith, whose
skull was crushed in the beatings,
died after he was struck by a car on
the Queens highway to which he had
Racial violence is not the only
challenge for blacks. One of the
nation's leading scholars on Martin
Luther King, Jr., targets "growing
class bifurcation," or an increasing
number of blacks in the underclass,
as the single most important problem
for blacks today.
"The biggest need is for an edu
cation and economic training pro
gram for the underclass population.
That is the fundamental issue," said
David Garrow, a former UNC pol
itical science professor now teaching
at City College of New York. (Gar
row's latest book. Bearing the Cross,
a biography of Martin Luther King,
Jr., is reviewed on page 7.)
Officially, one out of every four
black male teenagers are unem
ployed, Williamson said. But unof
ficial figures are more startling.
"Another 25 percent are not even
making themselves visible to the
people who are collecting the statis
tics," he says.
The statistics weigh heavily against
blacks. According to the U.S. Bureau
of the Census, the median income in
1984 for blacks was $15,430. The
figure was highest in the West
($19,210) and lowest in the South
($14,860). The bureau also reported
that "for every $100 a white family
received in income, a black family
The number of blacks below the
poverty level rose from 8.6 million
in 1980 to 9.5 million. The black
poverty rate soared at 33.8 percent,
almost three times the rate for whites.
About 3 1 percent (2. 1 million) of all
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black families were below the poverty
But Garrow is reluctant to blame
such economic problems solely on
racial differences. "We are really
talking about questions of class
nowadays, much more than single
questions of race," he said.
Garrow links the economics of the
black underclass to the lack of quality
"The core variable to me," Garrow
says, "is whether people stick with
the educational system. . . . The vast
majority of affirmative action pro
grams in this country benefit the
middle class. I really think they are
speaking past the underclass."
Painter was more direct in her
criticism of education as contributing
to the difficulties of blacks.
"The assumption is that if you're
black, you're stupid," Painter said.
"You have to prove you're not."
When blacks live in poor neigh
borhoods, they attend poor schools
and don't get into good colleges.
Painter says. "And good colleges are
the key to the rest of your life."
Education from good schools leads
to the ability to donate money to
political campaigns and certain
foundations in order to get favorable
legislation passed, she says.
In 1985, the American Association
of State Colleges and Universities
(AASCU) reported that between
1 975 and 1 98 1 . the number of blacks
graduating from high schools
increased 29 percent, but the percen
tage of college-eligible blacks going
on to college dropped 1 1 percent.
The report also noted that since
1978, aid to enrolling white students
increased 8 percent, while aid to black
students decreased 4.7 percent.
"There is still a lot that is coun
terproductive and hurtful," Painter
said. "Counterproductive in that
there is lost talent." For example.
Painter said her cousin, who earned
a doctorate in astrophysics from the
California Institute of Technology,
left the U.S. to teach in Africa after
growing frustrated and becoming fed
up with racism.
"How many people can you afford
currently University provost, sptaks with students during a BSM protest in 1979
to lose?" says Painter. "How many
people can you afford to waste?"
Legal equalities can be legislated
and enforced in the U.S., while
attitudes of individuals cannot,
Williamson says. "Racism will have
a long life .... The alternative is
Williamson predicts greater action
by blacks in the future. "My guess
is that things will be better after the
next confrontation. There will be
another civil rights movement, for
lack of a better term. Certainly by
about 2010, people will be shocked
into the necessity of equality for black
At least one black student leader
agrees with Williamson's assessment
of the future. "1 believe that people
will not allow these incidents to go
unrecognized and unanswered," said
Eric Walker, vice president of the
Black Student Movement. "Blacks
will soon realize, along with all
minorities, that the gains that they
fought to achieve in the early '60s
and 70s are slowly being taken away.
We're going to get to fight all over
On the UNC campus, Williamson
says that blacks are faced with
adapting to an environment "that is
basically brushing against them."
If a group of black students are
seated in the cafeteria laughing and
being noisy, Williamson says that
white students react negatively. If a
group of white students acts sim
ilarly, white students tend to think
that the group is just having a good
time, he said.
"White students would be a lot
happier if they could develop a
capacity for toleration of black
culture, and they would be tremend
ously benefitted if they could develop
an appreciation of black culture."
The holiday commemorating the
birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.,
was designed to do just that. Garrow
said tFaT while it is a gesture, its
accomplishments are minimal.
"The King holiday bill ain't feeding
nobody," Garrow said. "It makes
people feci better but it doesn't do
Schedule of Events for
Martin Luther King
Thursday, Jan. 15
3:30 p.m. Film "Martin Luther King Jr.: From Montgomery To Memphis,"
in Union Auditorium. Speaker: Czerni Brasuell.
Following the showing of the 27-minute film, Brasuell will present a
comparative look at the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and
the South African struggle today. Brasuell, one of 19 people invited by
the South African YWCA for a study tour of their country, is the director
of the Durham YWCA. Presented by the Campus Y.
Noon Black Student Movement Rally in the Pit
Campus leaders will speak, and the "I Have a Dream" speech will be
Friday, Jan. 16
7 p.m. Second Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Banquet Carolina Room,
Charles E. Day, UNC School of Law professor, will be the keynote speaker.
Student tickets $6, available from BSM office, 215 Carolina Union. General
public tickets $12, for information call 942-1422 or 929-8513. Presented
by the South Orange Black Caucus, Office of University Affairs and the
Saturday, Jan. 17
8 p.m. "The Heart of Blues" musical revue. Memorial Hall.
The Kuumba Theatre of Chicago offers portrayals of immortal blues artists.
Reserved tickets are $3 for students and senior citizens, $5 for general
public, and are available at the Union Box Office noon to 6 p.m. Presented
by the Carolina Union Performing Arts Committee.
Sunday, Jan. 18
5 p.m. Melvin Watts will speak in the Student Union's Great Hall.
8 p.m. BSM performing groups in the Student Union's Great Hall.
Monday, Jan. 19
1:30 p.m. Rally and march from the Franklin Street post office to
First Baptist Church. Sponsored by the Anti -Apartheid Support Group and
Rainbow Coalition of Conscience.
3 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Church Service, First Baptist
7:30 p.m. Vigil in the Pit followed by march to the lecture in Memorial
8 p.m. Lecture by the Rev. Floyd McKissick in Memorial Hall.
Presentation of Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholarship.
McKissick, along with three other black students, sued UNC to allow
blacks to attend the School of Law. and in 1951 became one of the first
black students ever to attend UNC. Presented by the BSM.
Tuesday, Jan. 20
7 and 9:30 p.m. Film, "King: A Filmed Record . . . Montgomery to
Memphis," in Union Auditorium.
Historical documentary tracing King's leadership from the beginning of
the Civil Rights Movement in 1955 to his assassination in 1968. Presented
by the Carolina Union Film Committee.
Tar Heel file photo
Activist's viewpoint of 1963
and the protests of that year
By RANDY FARMER
The sides were clearly divided in
There was Birmingham Police
Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Con
nor armed with a firehose and a
electric cattle prod, with a growling
dog at his side. Nearby, standing
defiantly in a school doorway, was
George Wallace, then governor of
On the other side was Martin
Luther King, armed with non
compliant speech and supported by
the passive bodies of his followers.
Nearby was John F. Kennedy, toiling
for ways to remove the Connors and
1963 was, as one witness would
later describe it, a "very, very tense
time." But if tension was an ingre
dient of that year, so was brutality
and death. Dogs would be released
onto protesters in Birmingham. Two
civil rights proponents would be
murdered: Medgar Evers and John
F. Kennedy. Perhaps best encapsu
lating the significance of the deaths
to the civil rights to the time are the
words of Archibald MacLeish: "Our
deaths are not ours; They are yours:
They will mean what you make
But violence did not always dom
inate the scene as demonstrated one
August afternoon when some quarter
of a million people gathered peace
fully in Washington, D.C. The
protesters were attempting, on Aug.
28 to be exact, to persuade Congress
that action on civil rights legislation
was of the utmost importance. It was
on that day that Martin Luther King
delievered his timeless "1 have a
"Even though we still face the
difficulties of today and tomorrow,"
King said in front of the Lincoln
Memorial steps. "1 still have a
dream ... I have a dream that on
the red hills of Georgia the sons of
former slaves and the sons of former
slave-owners will be able to sit at the
table of brotherhood."
In the same speech. King said: "In
the process of gaining our rightful
place, we must not be guilty of
wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to
satisfy our thirst for freedom by
Civil rights made him King
The civil rights movement, in
general, and Martin Luther King Jr.,
in particular, have a special niche in
the mythos Americans have con
structed around the subject of social
change. The myth of the movement
has become more important than the
reality, as the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference and the
Student Non-Violent Coordinating
Committee have been transformed
into respectful constitutionalists
working for change in the context
of obedience to law and order.
Similarly, King has become sain
tlike, pure and forthright in his
adherence to nonviolence and his
dedication to doing right regardless
of the circumstances. This vision of
King as saint is made all the more
powerful by his assassination. For in
dying as he did. King became not
just a martyr, but rather, the, martyr,
for the cause. Memphis 'thus is '
drinking from the cup of bitterness
One of the protesters listening to
those words and witnessing the day's
event was Joseph Straley, an UNC
physics professor emeritus.
"It was awfully hot." Straley said
about the day. "There were people
as far as the eye could see. They
stretched from the Lincoln Memorial
to Washington Monument. It was an
occassion for people of a like mind
to gather and protest what was going
in this country." It was also a time
to try to overcome, as the old Baptist
hymn goes, but the overcoming to
be done wasn't isolated to the Capitol
"(The march) drew attention to the
scene, but it was not the scene,"
Straley said.'The scene was what was
going on in Chapel Hill, in Greens
boro, in Charlotte.
"It took no courage to go to
Washington. It took plenty of cour
age to walk into one of (Chapel Hill's)
restaurants downtown when there
was a very angry proprietor sitting
And, as the 72-year-old Straley
recalled, it was in places like Chapel
Hill that the battle for civil rights was
being waged and the costs were being
"My role (in the Chapel Hill
protest movement) was to advise and
mostly 1 advised on the conservative
side," said Straley, who came to UNC
in 1944 and retired in 1980. "1 was
always terribly frightened about what
people might do. I had the feeling
they didn't fully understand the
enormity of what could happen to
them. They could be killed, or they
could be put in prison. ..."
John Ehle, a writer and former
UNC professor, wrote a book
entitled the "The Free Men" on
several students who were civil rights
protesters during the early 1960s.
"Lightning struck in Chapel Hill in
1963 and 1964," Ehle wrote. "And
the reactions of the town have to be
evaluated in terms of that."
During the early 1960s, the civil
rights movement in Chapel Hill was
an active one. It staged sit-ins on local
restaurants with segregated lunch
counters, blocked Franklin Street,
held sidewalk marches and fasted for
transformed into the Calvary where
King was finally nailed to the cross
he always bore.
The trouble with this fable is not
merely that, like all myths, it obscures
reality. The more serious problem is
that the canonization of King makes
him not just the preeminent symbol
of the drive for civil rights, but rather
the embodiment of that drive.
According to this vision, the move
ment did not make King King
made the movement. And once that
premise is accepted, much of the
glorious vitality of the battle for civil
rights, of ordinary people effecting
radical change, is lost.. ,
David Garrow's new history -of
two weeks underneath the flagpole
in front of the post office.
Straley said he advised the protes
ters as to the procedure to take. "I
considered it pretty careless driving
what the activist leadership was
attempting," Straley said. "I imagine
the individuals who were into this
were sort of intoxicated with the peer
pressures that were involved. That is,
they hadn't thought through what the
total consequences could be."
Straley said there were about 2,000
charges on about 150 civil rights
protesters for trespassing, resisting
arrest, refusing to disperse and so on.
"If the judge was to give (the
protesters) the full penalty or sent
ence, 1 could see some of these kids
being in prison for several years. Of
course, nothing like that happened.
But how do you know nothing like
that is going to happen.
"I just feared for their security. 1
was also wondering whether they
could bring discredit to their own
movement by doing things that were
a little too flamboyant. They were
playing the game very, very carelessly
The tensions of the time were
reflected in a protest during Easter
"The core leaders (of the demon
stration)," Straley said, "there were
five, fasted for two weeks at the
flagpole in front of the post office
on Franklin Street. By Easter, this
had generated in the coummunity a
tremendous amount of reponse. The
Ku Klux Klan decided to have a
meeting here to protest' the fasters.
so they rented a field out near
"One of the things that happened
was that the Grand Dragon had
made a speech, one sentence of which
is that 'There are those bastards down
there underneath the flagpole dese
crating the flag. We ought to go up
there and drag them away.' "
The Klan never harmed the pro
testers, Straley said, but several
observers came by and harassed the
Straley said the reason he didn't
participate in any protests was: "1
suppose the easiest answer is that 1
See PROTEST page 8
King and the SCLC, Bearing the
Cross, is on its face an attempt to
resurrect that vitality and provide a
balanced portrait of the Montgomery
preacher and his accomplishments.
There is a demythologizing air to
Garrow's writing that is refreshing,
but at the same time the author seems
anxious to avoid desecrating King's
tomb. The reality of King's life, which
was far from saintly, is set out
exhaustively. But as Garrow tries, not
always successfully, to thread the
theme of bearing the cross through
King's life, he imbues the messianic
image with considerable power.
This is a narrow tightrope Garrow
is walking, between hagiography and
a cynical dredging up of the less
savory aspects of King's life. It has
been persuasively argued that every
favorable biography is in some sense
; . . See. RViEW'page IB" ' '