Faces In The Water: The Martyrs of the Civil Rights Memorial

This film was only twenty minutes long, but it was very powerful. The first person it talked about was Emmett Till, the little boy that I’m doing my project on. They were looking for his body under bridges, because that’s where they always looked when one of them went missing. Emmett said something to a white woman, so he was beaten, tortured, and shot in the head. White men tied barbwire around his neck, weighed him down, and threw him into the river. Emmett’s mother described seeing his body. She said everything was normal until she got to his chin. She said that one of his pretty hazel colored eyes was hanging down. She had him buried back home in Chicago, and had an open casket funeral because she wanted the world to see what those white men did to her little boy. She said that “people had to face my son. People had to face themselves.”

Emmett is one of forty people listed on the memorial. George Lee was shot for preaching about voting. A truck driver was killed because of the color of his skin. Those little girls in the Birmingham church were killed by a bomb. I grew up hearing the story of Jonathan Daniels. He was a seminarian who was killed for his work in the Civil Rights movement. He lived in Hayneville, Alabama. That’s where I grew up. A woman named Viola was shot by a Klan member because she was bringing black people home from voting meetings. She was killed going down Highway 80. I drive down Highway 80 every single day, but I never knew that. She was the only white woman killed during the Movement. We’ve all heard the story of Rosa Parks and how she refused to give up her seat on the bus, which started the bus boycott. We also know who Martin Luther King Jr. is. “He was their Moses. He led them through the waters and showed them the Promised Land.”

It amazes me that all these things happened right here in Montgomery. It makes me wonder if I would have had the courage of Ms. Viola. Would I have risked my life to stand up for the rights of others? I like to believe that I would have. And the inequality really isn’t over. Races in America still aren’t treated equally. Alabama’s new immigration law is bringing us right back to the 50s and 60s. There are many countries in the world where women don’t have the right to vote, and where women don’t have the right to an education. The Civil Rights movement will never really be over. Until every person is treated equally, and given equal opportunities, we have to keep fighting.




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