Thursday, 20 May 2010

Remembering the civil rights movement

Speaking of the Civil Rights movement, I noticed that BBC Radio 4 broadcast an interesting documentary about one of the seminal songs of that era; Bob Dylan's 'The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll'. In the song, Dylan chronicles the killing of the black 51 year old hotel worker and mother of eleven at the hands of racist William Zantzinger on 8 February 1963.

The Wikipedia entry about the song says; 'The lyrics are a commentary on the racism of the 1960s, which valued a black woman's life so lightly. In 1963 when Hattie Carroll was killed, Charles County was still strictly segregated by race in public facilities such as restaurants, churches, theaters, doctor's offices, buses and the county fair. The schools of Charles County were not integrated until 1967.'

Through interviews with people who lived through those days, the documentary shines an insightful light on the all pervading racism of the time. You can listen to it on the BBC's fantastic iPlayer service, but be quick, it will only be available for a few more days.

And while we pause to remember Hattie Carroll, let's also remember some other victims of the civil rights struggle. Democracy Now commemorates the 40th anniversary of the killings of four students in Kent State University and the less publicised shooting dead of two black students at Jackson State University.

There is much we can learn from the struggle for civil rights in the USA, and it is still a source of great inspiration decades later. At a time when Europe seems to be falling prey once more to racism and intolerance, it is always worth remembering those from previous generations who were prepared to struggle for equality and dignity.