CREDOS : Change — II

Cheryl Rivers

By the summer of ‘64, I had a driver’s license and could elude my parents’ supervision. I was determined to be part of the “Freedom Summer.” My friends and I were somewhat naïve, believing integration was such an obvious good it must come soon.

I was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr’s moral leadership throughout my youth: There had been the march on Selma, the freedom rides. And I admired the sacrifices and courage of other pacifist African-American ministers, who were willing to be arrested for the cause. They were able to persevere because their faith told them that taking action was a moral imperative. Those ministers articulated so eloquently the idea that each of us should strive toward a heaven on earth. If you believe in salvation, you want to attain it, and you want to attain it now.

To me, Dr King and his peers were moral exemplars. They shaped my understanding of integration as a value. I thought that African Americans owned moral integrity and truth. While I wanted integration to afford blacks the economic and educational opportunities whites already enjoyed. I also believed that the inner changes could embrace equal civil rights.

In those days, the two main Jackson newspapers — the Clarion-Ledger and the Jackson Daily News — were both owned by a racist family. They covered the movement with enormous bitterness and hatred. Ironically, and certainly inadvertently — they also helped us get involved. —