SAMMY YOUNGE JR. MEMORIAL                                        ADDRESS

                                                   Registered © Michael Oshoosi , 2015                                                                                  All Rights Reserved

                                                          

                                                                          *

                                      By Alashe Michael Oshoosi

         Delivered at Tuskegee University, Alabama

                                                                                               August 26, 2012

                                                                      

GOOD AFTERNOON,

 

I WISH TO GREET AND EXPRESS MY GRATITUDE TO DRS. MUHJAH SHAKIR AND GWENDOLYN PATTON, WHO ARE BOTH LIFE-LONG FRIENDS OF MINE AND FELLOW TRAVELORS ON THE HIGH ROAD OF LIBERATION FOR HUMANITY, IN GENERAL, AND FOR OUR AFRICAN AMERICAN PEOPLE, IN PARTCULAR. 

 

I ALSO WISH TO GREET EACH OF YOU COLLECTIVELY, AND LET YOU KNOW THAT THIS IS AN EXPECIALLY HISTORIC AND EMOTIONALLY EDIFYING OCCASION FOR ME. NOTHING IS MORE MEANINGFUL FOR ME THAN TO SHARE WITH YOU MY RECOLLECTIONS AND REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND MARTYRDOM OF SAMMY YOUNGE JR.  

                                                                      *

WE WILL FOCUS TODAY ON WHAT HE STOOD FOR, WHAT HE LIVED AND DIED FOR, AND, AS A RESULT, WHY AND HOW INDEBTED WE OUGHT TO BE TO HIM FOR WHAT HE CONTRIBUTED TO US AND WHAT HE SACRIFICED IN THE PROCESS.

 

THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF MEN AND WOMEN THROUGHOUT PAST DECADES AND CENTURIES JUST LIKE HIM; ONES WHO GAVE THEIR ALL FOR OUR FREEDOM AND DIGNITY AS A SO-CALLED “RACE” OF PEOPLE--THE AFRICAN AMERICAN--HERE IN NORTH AMERICA.

I SAY A "SO-CALLED" RACE BECAUSE THROUGHOUT HISTORY, ONE CAME TO AMERICA AND TO THE OTHER EUROPEAN SETTLER COLONIES AS A NATIONALITY AND CULTURE BUT ENDED UP, RATHER QUICKLY, AS A “RACE” OF SOME KIND. THOUGH IT MAY BE POPULAR, I DO NOT ACCEPT THAT NOMENCLATURE, THAT DESIGNATION NOR THAT CONCEPT EVEN IF I, LIKE MOST, OCCASIONALLY BUT UNCRITICALLY REFER TO OUR PEOPLE AS "BLACK PEOPLE" OR-- RETRO- SPECTIVELY-- AS "NEGROES" IN MY DISCOURSE...  

   

...THIS, OF COURSE, BRINGS ME TO MY SUBJECT TODAY: I AM HERE TO DISCUSS THE LIFE OF SAMMY YOUNGE JR. I MET SAMMY IN THE FALL AND WINTER OF 1965 ONLY THREE TIMES. AND, I WAS WITH HIM EARLIER ON THE NIGHT HE DIED IN JANUARY, 1966. IT IS NOTEWORTHY TO ME THAT THE VERY DORMITORY THAT I LIVED IN, CALLED DORM "F" AT THE TIME, WAS LATER RE-NAMED AFTER HIM.

 

LET ME START THIS WAY. MANY HAVE TOLD ME THAT SAMMY DID NOT LIKE "MOVEMENT" ICONS. SINCE MOST OF US WERE ESSENTIALLY POPULIST ORGANIZERS, IT WAS COMMON FOR MANY MOVEMENT PERSONALITIES TO BE SKEP-TICAL OF PERSONALITY CULTS. SO IN THAT SPIRIT, I DO NOT INTEND TO ESTABLISH ANY PERSONALITY CULT AROUND SAMMY. IF ANYTHING, THE MOST I CAN SAY ABOUT SAMMY IS THAT HE WAS AN ICONOCLAST.

 

THEREFORE, I DO NOT WISH TO CANONIZE NOR ROMANTICIZE A YOUNG MAN SUCH AS SAMMY. HIS LIFE WAS SHORT, HIS CHARACTER HAD IT ROUGH EDGES, AND HIS DEMISE WAS FATEFUL. BUT THE MEASURE OF WHAT HE STOOD FOR AND WHAT HE TRIED TO ACCOMPLISH IN HIS ALL TOO BRIEF LIFE WAS HEROICALLY AMBITIOUS, IN MY VIEW, AND NOTHING LESS.

 

SAMMY KNEW FEAR--MUCH OF IT BECAUSE HE WAS OFTEN THREATENED WITH DEATH FOR HIS CIVIL RIGHTS AGIT-TATION AND ORGANZING--AND YET HE WAS ONE OF THE MOST CONSISTENTLY COUR- AGEOUS MEMBERS OF HIS GENERATION OF ACTIVISTS. 

 

 

SAMMY YOUNGE JR: A FEW THINGS ABOUT HIM

 

SAMMY WAS BORN IN 1944. HE ATTENDED LOCAL SCHOOLS AND WAS WELL-KNOWN AS AN ACTIVE— IF NOT ADVEN- TUROUS-- CHILD. HIS MOTHER WAS A SCHOOL TEACHER WITH A DIGNIFIED BEARING, SUBSTANTIAL ACHIEVEMENTS, AND POSSESSED OF A SOCIALLY AND POLITICALLY KEEN AWARENESS OF THE TRUE STATE OF "RACE RELATIONS" IN HER TIMES (AS WELL AS WHAT TO DO ABOUT THEM WITHIN HER MEANS). SHE WAS THE GREAT INFLUENCE ON SAMMY.  

 

SAMMY'S FATHER WAS ALSO A WELL-EDUCATED AND WELL-TEMPERED MAN WHOSE PROFESSION WAS OCCUPA- TIONAL THERAPY. HE WORKED FOR THE VETERAN'S ADMINSTRATION IN ATLANTA WHEN I KNEW HIM. IN FACT, I WOULD VISIT THEIR HOME IN TUSKEGEE PERIODICALLY IN THE YEARS AFTER SAMMY'S DEATH.

 

SAMMY HAD A YOUNGER BROTHER, STEVIE YOUNGE WHO I GOT TO KNOW PERSONALLY A LITTLE BETTER THAN SAMMY, AS STEVIE AND I WERE MORE CLOSELY MATCHED IN AGE AND, OBVIOUSLY, BECAUSE SAMMY HAD BY THEN DIED.

 

WHEN I SAW HIM SAMMY WAS ALWAYS DRESSED IN DENIM OVERALLS--STANDARD FARE FOR SNCC WORKERS AT THE TIME. YET I HEARD THAT HE WAS NORMALLY A SHARP DRESSER. HE WAS ALSO REPUTED TO HAVE HAD GIRLFRIENDS; IN FACT, MORE THAN ONE AT TIMES, AND AS CHARISMATIC AS HE WAS, THIS WAS NOT SURPRISING. HE WAS HAND -SOME AND BOUNDLESSLY SINCERE. SAMMY SEEMED TO HAVE BOUNDLESS ENERGY AND ALWAYS SEEMED TO BE DOING SOMETHING OR GOING SOMEWHERE.

 

BY THE AGE OF FOURTEEN, SAMMY--SOMETIMES ALONE OR SOMETIMES IN THE COMPANY OF A FEW   TUSKEGEE PEERS—HAD ALREADY STARTED PERSONALLY TO DESEGREGATE COMMERCIAL ESTA BLISH- MENTS IN THE TUSKGEE AND MONTGOMERY AREAS.

 

ULTIMATELY, BY THE AGE OF 21 OR SO, AS JAMES FORMAN CITES IN HIS DEFTLY WRITTEN AND COMPASSIONATE BIOGRAPHY, "SAMMY YOUNGE JR.," SAMMY ENGAGED IN AGITATION AND PICKETING ACTIVITIES AGAINST RESTAU- RANTS, SHOE STORES, CLOTHING STORES, THE LOCAL COMMERCIAL BANKS AND THE SWIMMING POOLS AND LAKES DEMANDING RESPECT AND SERVICES NOTWITHSTANDING HIS OR ANYONE ELSE'S “RACE.”

 

ON THE NIGHT HE DIED, SAMMY HAD BEEN MENACED EARLIER BY A KNIFE-WEILDING VOTER REG- ISTRAR BECAUSE HE WAS ENGAGED IN VOTER REGISTRATION ACTIVITES TO GET TUSKEGEE'S LESS AFFLUENT AND LESS EDUCATED NE-

GROES THE RIGHT TO VOTE. (TUSKEGEE'S MORE PRIVILEGED ELITES HAD ENJOYED THE FRANCHISE SINCE THE 1920's, BUT THEY WERE REPUTED TO HAVE HAD LITTLE IN- TERESTS IN SEEING THOSE BLACK FOLK OF MODEST MEANS, WHICH IS TO SAY, THOSE IN THE TOWN'S PERIPHERY AND "OUT IN THE COUNTY," VOTING).

 

NOTWITHSTRANDING, FOR EXAMPLE, DR. C.G. GOMILLION AND ATTORNEY FRED GRAY’S VICTORY IN PREVAILING IN THE CELEBRATED CASE, GOMILLION VS LIGHTFOOT-- WHERE THEY HAD BEAT BACK A GERRYMANDERING ATTEMPT BY THE TOWN'S WHITE POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT TO PERMANENTLY EXCLUDE ANY NEGROES FROM VOTING IN  TUSK-   EGEE'S CIVIC AFFAIRS-- IT WAS A LAMENTABLE FACT THAT MANY OF THIS AREA'S MOST ESTABLISHED NEGROES DID NOT WANT AND, IN FACT, REFUSED TO SUPPORT BLACK CANDIDATES RUNNING FOR OFFICES IN THIS AREA IN ANY WAY, OR TO SUCH A DE- GREE, THAT IT WOULD ACTUALLY THREATEN THE TRADITIONAL WHITE POWER  ESTABLISH-     MENT HERE IN A COUNTY THAT WAS 85% BLACK FOLK.

 

AT THIS TIME, IN THE EARLY 1960’s, SAMMY YOUNGE JR. SERVED HIS COUNTRY ADMIRABLY AND HO- NORABLY IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY-- BETWEEN 1962 AND 1964—AND DID SO WITHOUT BLEMISH ON HIS SERVICE RECORD-- FROM WHICH WE CAN REASONABLY INFER THAT HE HAD GOOD SELF- DISCIPLINE WHEN HE WANTED TO EXERCISE IT. THIS IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT IS CONTRARY TO WHAT A FEW OF HIS DETRACTORS MAY HAVE, OR MAY YET, TRY TO URGE UPON YOU. HE WAS SAID TO BE WISE, HISTORICALLY-INFORMED AND SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS BEYOND HIS YEARS. 

 

SAMMY PUT HIMSELF IN HARMS WAY ON A WEEKLY BASIS. OF COURSE, HE DID NOT WANT TO BE BEATEN UP, JAILED, NOR PERSONLLY OPPRESSED—NO ONE EASILY TOOK TO THAT—BUT HIS EMOTIONS FUELED HIS DETERMINATION AND FOCUS AND DID NOT UNDERMINE THEM. IN FACT, BECAUSE SAMMY ONLY HAD A PART OF ONE KIDNEY FUNC- TIONING BY THE AGE OF 22 IN 1965, HE WAS IN MORTAL DAN- GER EVERY TIME HE STOOD DOWN THE PHYSICAL MENACE OF A RACIAL ANTAGONIST OR ENGAGED IN A DEMONSTRATION. BUT THAT DID NOT STOP HIM!

 

 

THE LOCAL ENVIRONMENT

 

IN DESCRIBING SAMMY’S MISSION IN LIFE, HIS DESTINY, IT IS NECESSARY FOR ME TO CONTEXTUALIZE HIM IN AN ERA, I.E., IN THE PROFOUND SOCIAL MOVEMENT EXTANT DURING HIS LIFE TIME, AND GIVE DUE REGARD TO THE MANY OTHER BRAVE FREEDOM FIGHTERS THAT HE WORKED WITH, LEARNED FROM, DEBATED WITH, AND LOVED IN HIS BRIEF LIFE – WHICH ENDED WHEN HE WAS ASSASSINATED AT THE AGE OF 23.

 

IF TIME PERMITS I WILL TELL YOU A LITLE OF THE SUBSEQUENT HISTORY OF THE MOVEMENT IN TUSKEGEE IMMEDIAT- ELY AFTER HIS ASSASSI NATION--INCLUDING MY OWN WORK FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS IN CARRYING ON HIS WORK IN THIS AREA, BECAUSE I WAS PERSONALLY AFFECTED BY WHAT HAPPENED TO SAMMY.

 

I AND MOST OF SAMMY’S SURVIVING PEERS TOOK ON THE SAME TASKS AS DID HE. OUR SUBSEQUENT ACTIVITIES, HOWEVER, CLIMAXED TWO YEARS LATER IN AN ACT OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE HERE AT THIS BELOVED INSTITUTION. WE DID THIS BECAUSE WE CHOSE TO PRESS HOME A POINT: OUR SURVIVAL AS A DIGNIFIED NATIONALITY AND CULTURE WAS ON THE LINE AND WE MEANT TO DO SOMETHING VERY CREATIVE AND CONSTRUCTIVE ABOUT IT. THIS, HOW- EVER, REQUIRED GETTING THE UNDIVIDED ATTENTION OF THE “ESTABLISHMENT” BECAUSE T.I.A.L., TWO YEARS EARLIER, HAD OFTEN TRIED TO NEGOTIATE AND MAKE COMPROMISES WITH THEM, E.G. TUSKEGEE CIVIC ASSO- CIATION--IN ORDER TO MOVE FREEDOM’S AGENDA FORWARD AROUND HERE. BUT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT THEY FAILED. 

 

HOWEVER, IT IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR ME TO REMAIN TRUE TO TODAY'S THEME AND FOCUS ON SAMMY YOUNGE JR., AND THE ORGANIZATIONS OF RESISTANCE THAT HE WORKED WITH: THE TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE ADVANCEMENT LEAGUE (T.I.A.L.) AND THE STUDENT NONVIOLENT COORDINATING COMMITTEE (SNCC), IN 1965. I THINK IN THE END—ONCE YOU’VE HEARD THIS—YOU WILL BE IMMENSELY PROUD OF HIM.

 

SAMMY DID NOT INTEND TO ACT ON THE WORLD STAGE, BUT THE WORLD STAGE AND ITS DRAMA ACTED THROUGH HIM. AND WHEN HE WAS MURDERED IT BECAME KNOWN NATIONWIDE.

 

SAMMY YOUNGE JR. WAS BORN INTO A WORKING “MIDDLE CLASS" FAMILY HERE. THE TRAPPINGS OF NORMAL, EVEN IDEAL, CIRCUMSTANCES FOR CHILD REARING OBTAINED FOR MANY OF THE TUSKEGEE’S FAMILIES IN THE 1960’s. IN FACT, THERE WERE SO MANY SELF-SUFFICIENT AND HIGHLY EDUCATED AFRICAN-AMERICANS HERE THAT—AT LEAST FOR A CHILD—ONE COULD GROW UP IN AN ENVIRONMENT THAT SEEMED TO BE DEVOID OF RACIAL PREJUDICE. INDEED, THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR EDUCA- TION, UPWARD MOBILITY, AND RELATIVELY HIGH SOCIAL STATUS AND SECURITY THAT EXISTED HERE WERE THE ENVY OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS EVERYWHERE IN THE COUNTRY. 

 

THIS QUASI-NORMALCY, HOWEVER, WAS PREDICATED ON A NARRATIVE OF LOCAL RACIAL HARMONY AND ACCOM- MODATION AND INVOLVED A CREATIVE DENIAL THAT ALL AROUND IT THE DEEP SOUTH WAS BEING SHAKEN TO ITS CORE BY THE AGITATION OF AFRICAN- AMERICANS TO ACHIEVE UNIVERSAL SUFFERAGE AND TO END—ONCE AND FOREVER --THE BLIGHT OF JIM CROW SEGREGATION, ALONG WITH THE INTER-GENERATIONAL DEMORALI ZATION OF “THE NEGRO,” EN MASSE, THAT FLOWED IN ITS WAKE.

 

THE "BLACK BELT" IN THE 1960's  AND THE ARC OF TERROR

 

THERE IS A CORRIDOR THAT I CALL ‘THE SOUTHERN ARC OF TERROR.’  I WISH TO FOCUS ON THIS SOUTHERN ARC THAT TRAVERSES THE HEART OF “DIXIE”—DENOTED HISTORICALLY AS THE “BLACK BELT”; A REGION—UNLIKE ANY OTHER IN THE COUNTRY—WHERE BLACK PEOPLE AVERAGED 80% OR MORE OF THE VARIOUS COUNTIES' POPULATIONS FROM ONE SOUTHER STATE TO THE NEXT.

 

NOW IMAGINE A GEOGRAHIC WIDENING OF THIS IMAGINARY LINE TO INCLUDE ALL POINTS 100 MILES TO THE NORTH OF IT AND 100 MILES TO THE SOUTH OF IT. IN WAS IN THAT 200 MILE SWARTH OF TERRITORY, A THOUSAND MILES LONG, ONE COULD SAY—AT LEAST FIGURATIVELY-SPEAKING—THAT 80% OF THE CONFLICT, BLOODSHED AND TURMOIL OF THE MOVEMENTS OF THE 1950’S AND 1960’S OCCURRED.

 

THE DEEP SOUTH'S ARC OF TERROR, AS ANY STUDENT OF HISTORY WILL INFORM YOU, CONTAINED  TUSKEGEE--THE INSTITUTE AND THE TOWN. IN A SENSE, TUSKEGEE, “THE PRIDE OF THE SWIFT GROWING SOUTH,” WAS AT THE EPICEN- TER OF THE RACIAL AND INTERNECINE CONFLICTS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS AND BLACK POWER MOVEMENTS IN THE 1960’s. YET, AT ONCE, IT WAS EMESHED IN THE NARRATIVE OF RACIAL ACCOMODATION AND HARMONY THAT SEEMED TO BE FROZEN IN A SPACE SOMETHERE BETWEEN MAGICAL DENIAL AND DELUSION.

 

IT WAS PREDICTABLE THEN THAT YOUNG PEOPLE LIKE SAMMY WERE AWAKENED AND AROUSED TO ACTIVISM BECAUSE THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT MAY BE SAID TO HAVE BEGUN —IN ITS MODERN FORM—IN THE 1956 MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA BUS BOYCOTT; LESS THAN 40 MILES AWAY. AND BECAUSE THEY WERE LOCATED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MASS MOVEMENT, AT ITS MOST INTENSE POINT, THERE WAS NO SHORTAGE OF FOCAL ISSUES FOR THEM TO PROTEST ABOUT SINCE WHITE SUPREMACY WAS THE STATUS QUO IN EVERY SPHERE OF LIFE. 

 

THE TYPICAL ISSUES AND PROJECTS FOR MOVEMENT ORGANIZERS INCLUDED VOTER REGISTRATION AND VOTING RIGHTS AGITATION, THE DESEGREGATION OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ACCOMODATIONS, RESISTANCE TO RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN THE AREAS OF HOME AND BUSINESS FINANCING, THE DENIAL OF THE BENEFITS OF  GOVERN- MENT SUPPORT IN THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR, AND THE NAS- CENT BLACK POWER AND BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS MOVEMENTS ALONG WITH THE ABUSE OF POLICE  POWERS. 

 

SAMMY WAS ENGAGED, IN SHORT, IN A MAKE-OVER OF AMERICA FROM WHAT IT WAS TO WHAT IT ALL ALONG SHOULD HAVE BEEN. AND THIS WAS DANGEROUS BUSINESS.

 

AFTER RETURNING FROM MILITARY DUTY IN 1964, SAMMY ATTENDED COLLEGE HERE, BUT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT HE WAS TO BE FOUND ORGANZING. HE WAS INVOLVED MOVEMENT ACTIVISTS HERE OR AS FAR AWAY AS MISSISSIPPI.  AND IT WAS ESSENTIALLY TOO HARD FOR HIM TO PERSERVERE IN COLLEGE CLASSROOMS WHEN HE HAD SO MANY OTHER THINGS TO DO.

 

SOME WILL SAY THAT SAMMY WAS TEMPERAMENTAL, BUT I SAY—AS DID HIS MOTHER--THAT HE WAS SIMPLY INTOL- ERANT OF PERSONAL MARGINALIZATION. (HE WAS THE KIND OF GUY TO WHOM ONE PAID ATTENTION BECAUSE SAMMY WAS—SIMPLY PUT--A LEADER).  AND, AS A YOUNG BLACK MAN WHO TOTALLY IDENTIFIED WITH HIS PEOPLE AND OUR HISTORIC TASKS, HE WAS SIMPLY INTOLERANT OF OUR COLLECTIVE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL DEBASEMENT; ESPECIALLY THOSE ASPECTS OF IT THAT WERE ESSENTIALLY SELF-INFLICTED. 

 

TO THE EXTENT THAT SAMMY HAD DETRACTORS, THEY COULD NEVER CLAIM THAT SAMMY WAS PERSONALLY AS-SOCIATED WITH THE HARM OR OPPRESSION OF ANYONE. ONE WONDERS IF THEY COULD EVEN APPROXIMATE THE INTEGRITY AND COURAGE THAT SAMMY POSSESSED. NOR COULD THEY ADDRESS THE TASKS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN LIBERATION AS DID HE. SAMMY ESPECIALLY FOUND THE HYPOCRISY AND DUPLICITY IN THE ACCOMODATIONIST NARRATIVE ON "RACE RELATIONS" IN TUSKEGEE INSUFFERABLE.

 

TO ME, SAMMY EXEMPLIFIED THE RIGHTEOUS DISCONTENT THAT YOUTH WORLDWIDE EXHIBIT IN ADDRESSING SOC- IAL ABSURDITIES. AND HE, THEREFORE, WAS EMBLEMATIC OF THE NOBLE RESISTANCE OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS AND, LATER, THE BLACK POWER MOVEMENTS.

 

 

MARCH, 1965: THE SELMA TO MONTGOMERY MARCH

 

ONE OF THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT WAS TO UNIVERSALLY ENFRANCHISE AFRICAN AMERICAN VOTERS BECAUSE BALLOTS--AND POLITICAL OFFICES-- WERE DENIED TO MOST OF US IN THE SOUTH AT THAT TIME. VOTER REGISTRATION AND THE RUNNING OF AFRICAN AMERICANS FOR POLTICAL OFFICE WAS ALSO DANGEROUS BUSINESS BUT STILL A LOGICAL EXTENSION OF ENFRANCHISEMENT.

 

IN FACT, WHEN I ARRIVED HERE IN AUGUST OF 1965, THE NEFARIOUS FLAG OF "WHITE SUPREMACY" (WITH ITS WHITE ROOSTER SYMBOL) STILL FLEW OVER THE STATE CAPITAL IN MONTGOMERY.  DIXIECRATIC POLITICIANS CONTROLLED THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES BECAUSE THEY--AS A PART OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY--CONTROLLED CON- GRESS' COMMITTEES ON A SENIORITY BASIS.

 

AFTER A DEMORALIZING ATTEMPT TO DESGREGATE THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, I.E., THE DIXIECRATIC PARTY), IN EARLY 1965, THE CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS, SNCC AND SCLC, INITIATED VOTER REGISTRATION DRIVES IN ALABAMA'S BLACK BELT COUNTIES. AND SNCC--WITH SAMMY YOUNGE JR. FULLY ENGAGED WITH IT-- WENT FURTHER. IT CALLED FOR THE CREATION OF COUNTY POLITICAL PARTIES THAT WERE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE POPULATION IN THESE 80% TO 85% BLACK POPULATION CENTERS.

 

THE "BLACK PANTHER" ICON IS BORN                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            SINCE EACH LOCAL PARTY REQUIRED A GRAPHIC SYMBOL, SNCC ORGANIZERS CHOSE A BLACK PANTHER AS THE SYMBOL FOR THE FREEDOM ORGANIZATIONS THAT BLACK PEOPLE HAD CREATED IN THIS AREA AS COUNTY POL- TICAL PARTIES. LATER, THE NEWS MEDIA DEEMED THESE GROUPS "BLACK PANTHER PARTIES"; HENCE THE ORIGINS OF THAT NAME AND THAT ICON.

 

LOCAL ORGANIZERS HAD TO BRAVE PHYSICAL DEPRIVATION AND SIMULTANEOUSLY SUPPORT THE MANY BLACK PEOPLE "OUT IN THE COUNTIES" WHO WERE BRAVE ENOUGH TO "RED-ISH" (REGISTER) TO VOTE ONLY TO FIND THEMSELVES EVICTED FROM THE FARMS AND PLANTATIONS ON WHICH THEY LIVED.

 

SO, IT WAS BITTERLY IRONIC TO SAMMY THAT THE SOME MEMBERS OF THE RELATIVELY PRIVILEGED AND VOTING NEGRO ELITE OF TUSKEGEE SEEMED TO BE ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN LIMITING MASS BLACK VOTER ACTIVITIES AND, APPARENTLY, WERE SCARED TO DEATH OF BLACK POLITICAL POWER EVEN--AS HERE--WHERE IT WAS EASY FOR THEM TO ACHIEVE IT. YET, ON THE OTHER HAND, POOR BLACK PEOPLE FROM THE SURROUNDING COUNTIES WERE BEING BEATEN, HARASSED, EVICTED, STARVED TO DEATH, AND FORCED TO SPEND THE WINTERS LIVING IN TENT CITIES ALONG THE SIDES OF HIGHWAYS FOR DARING TO DO WHAT THE NEGRO ELITES WERE, IN MANY INSTANCES, DARING NOT TO DO.

 

IN THE FALL OF 1965, SAMMY BEGAN TO DO POLTICAL WORK ON A DAILY BASIS IN THE VERY AREA OF HIS BIRTH. AS IT TURNS OUT, SNCC AND SCLC INITIATED A VOTING RIGHTS LAW CAMPAIGN WHICH WAS TO CULMINATE IN A MASSIVE PROTEST MARCH AND RALLY AT THE STATE'S CAPITAL IN EARLY MARCH, 1965. AS I AM SURE YOU KNOW, THE MAR- CH(ES) FROM SELMA TO MONTGOMERY WERE BRUTALLY SUPPRESSED ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS.

 

THE TUSKEGEE TO MONTGOMERY MARCH!

SO AS THIS 1965 DEMONSTRATIONS ON THE CAPITAL OF THE CONFEDERACY AND ON WHITE SUPREMACY IN ALABMA (AND NATIONWIDE) TOOK SHAPE, AND DREW THE NATION'S ATTENTION TOWARD IT, THE BELEAGUERED DEMON- STRATORS FROM THE WEST, FROM SELMA, COMING ALONG HIGHWAY 80, WERE ALMOST FORESAKEN UNTIL A COUR- AGEOUS GROUP OF YOUNG PEOPLE FROM TUSKEGEE--THE INSTITUTE AND THE TOWN--FORMED T.I.A.L. AND MADE AND CARRIED OUT PLANS TO MOUNT A RELIEF MARCH AND DEMONSTRATION FROM THE EAST, ALSO ALONG THE HIGHWAY 80 COR- RIDOR.

 

IT IS ALWAYS RISKY TO MENTION SPECIFIC NAMES BECAUSE INVARIABLY AND REGRETTABLY ONE ALWAYS LEAVES SOMEONE OUT. HOWEVER, WITHOUT DOUBT DR. GWEN PATTON, WENDY PARIS, SIMUEL SCHUTZ, LALY WASHING- TON, BILL HOWARD, GEORGE WARE, GEORGE DAVIS, ELDRIDGE BURNS, AND MANY OTHERS--INCLUDING THE SNCC CADRE LIKE BILL HALL, HARDY FRY, JENNIFER LAWSON, MARTHA LIVINGSTON, JIMMY ROGERS, SCOTT B. SMITH, NORMAN "DUKE" BARNETT, WILLIE RICKS, JIMMY TRUPPY, AND JEAN WILEY (A TEACHER AND EDITOR)   --WORKED TOGETHER TO GET MORE THAN 800 PEOPLE TO MONTGOMERY AND TO KEEP THEM THERE DAY IN AND OUT, IN THE MOST DEMORALZING OF WEATHER CONDITIONS, AND DESPITE THE LACK OF SANITATION RESOURCES AND SUPPLIES, TO PRESSURE THE GOV- ERNMENT INTO CONCEDING TO US A LITTLE MORE FREEDOM---A VOTING RIGHTS ACT-- THAN WE WOULD HAVE HAD OTHERWISE.

 

SO THERE, WITH SAMMY VERY PROMINENTLY IN A LEADERSHIP ROLE, THIS BAND OF MOVEMENT ORGANIZERS, SUP- PORTERS AND SYMPATHIZERS--OUR "WINTER SOLDIERS" OF T.I.A.L. AND SNCC--ONE AND ALL--DELIVERED ON THEIR PROMISE OF SUPPORT FOR THE MARCHERS COMING FROM SELMA.

 

AND TOGETHER THEY ULTIMATELY PREVAILED IN PUSHING THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES, AND THE PRESID- ENTIAL ADMINISTRATION, INTO PASSING THE HISTORIC VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965. BUT NOT BEFORE SEVERAL WERE KILLED: INCLUDING REV. JAMES REED, MRS.VIOLA LUIZO, AND JOHNATHAN DANIELS--ALL KILLED ON THE WESTERN SIDE OF HIGHWAY 80's APPROACH TO MONTGOMERY IN THAT MARCH, 1965 CAMPAIGN. 

 

CONSEQUENTLY, VIRTUALLY EVERY BLACK POLITICAL OFFICE-HOLDER IN THIS STATE AND MOST NATIONWIDE, IN THE LAST 45 YEARS, OWE THEIR SUCCESSES TO THE BRAVE PEOPLE LIKE SAMMY YOUNGE JR. WHO FOUGHT AND, IN MANY CASES, DIED FOR THEIR OPPORTUNITIES TO REPRESENT US. IN FACT, WE NOW HAVE AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESID- ENT IN OFFICE WHO SURELY WOULD NOT BE THERE BUT FOR THE SACRIFICE OF SAMMY YOUNGE JR.'S LIFE AND THOSE OF OTHERS JUST LIKE HIM IN 1965; IN THIS PROFOUNDLY HISTORIC PLACE.

 

THE COMMODORES RELEASED AN ALBUM (IN THE 1970'S I BELIEVE), CALLED "HEROES." I URGE YOU TO LOCATE IT AND TO LISTEN CAREFULLY TO ITS THEMES. MERCIFULLY, I THOUGHT, SOME OF OUR YOUTH CARRIED FORWARD, LIKE THEM AND TOM JOINER, AND OTHERS, TO ADVANCE AND HOLD HIGH THE CONSCIOUSNESS, THE DIGNITY AND ASPIRATIONS OF OUR PEOPLE RIGHT INTO THE PUBLIC SPHERE WHEN SO MANY OTHER CELEBRITIES BELIEVE OR WERE MANIPULATED INTO BELIEVING THAT THEIR SUCCESSES WERE A PRODUCT OF THEIR PERSONAL EFFORTS ALONE.

 

SO I SAY TO YOU, DO NOT TAKE THIS WONDERFUL VENUE--THIS UNIVERSITY AND THE PEOPLE OF THIS COMMUNITY FOR GRANTED. TUSKEGEE IS IMMORTAL! AND I AM A WITNESS TO THE IMMORTALITY OF ITS INFLUENCE. TUSKEGEE IS INDEED SACRED GROUND.

 

EPILOGUE: I SPOKE TO SAMMY THE NIGHT HE WAS KILLED

 

ON JANUARY 3, 1966, I ATTENDED A MEETING OF SNCC FOLK ONE NIGHT AT SNCC'S LOCAL "FREEDOM HOUSE" ON GREEN STREET ON THE EAST SIDE OF HIGHWAY 80 IN THE TOWN OF TUSKEGEE. I WALKED THERE WITH A NOTABLE SNCC ORGANIZER, SCOTT B. SMITH, THROUGH SOME GOD-FORESAKEN BACKWOODS PATH THAT STARTED NEAR THE OLD MANSION ON OLD MONTGOMERY HIGHWAY AND WOUND THROUGH THE THICKET UNTIL WE ARRIVED AT THAT LOCATION.

 

THE REASON FOR THE MEETING WAS TO PLAN A RESPONSE AND ESCALATION OF THE VOTER REGISTRATION ACTIVIT- IES THAT SAMMY AND WENDY PARIS HAD BEEN ENGAGED IN EARLIER THAT DAY. AS I MENTIONED BEFORE, THEY WERE PHYSICALLY THREATENED BY A KNIFE-WEILDING WHITE REGISTRAR. AND SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE ABOUT THAT. ON THE WAY THERE SCOTT B. SMITH HELD FORTH FOR MY EDIFICATION ON THE NUMEROUS WAYS YOU COULD GET KILLED DOING THE WORK OF SNCC SO THAT I WOULD KNOW HOW TO SURVIVE THE WORK THAT I HAD DECIDED TO DO.

 

MIDWAY THROUGH THE MEETING, SAMMY ARRIVED AND RELATED TO US SOME OF THE DAY'S EVENTS.  HE WAS SOME- WHAT AGITATED, BUT NOT SO MUCH THAT HE FAILED TO NOTICE THAT ONE OF OUR SNCC FREEDOM FIGHTERS HAD NO SHOES, AND PROMISED TO BUY HIM SOME AT HIS FIRST OPPORTUNITY. THEN HE AND I SPOKE, AND BECAUSE HE KNEW THAT I HAD WALKED THERE, HE OFFERED ME A RIDE BACK TO THE CAMPUS; ROUGHLY TWO MILES AWAY. BUT HE TOLD ME THAT HE HAD TO RUN THROUGH TOWN FIRST.

 

SINCE ANOTHER PERSON ALSO OFFERED ME A RIDE, ONE WHO WAS GOING DIRECTLY THERE, I ACCEPTED THAT OF- FER. AND BUT FOR THAT LITTLE TWIST OF FATE I WOULD HAVE GONE WITH SAMMY INTO THE TOWN THAT NIGHT.  THE STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED TO SAMMY--THE CONFRONTATION AT A SERVICE STATION ABOUT SAMMY INSISTING ON USING A BATHROOM RESERVED FOR WHITE MEN, IN A SERVICE STATION IN HIS OWN HOME TOWN, AND SYMBOL- LY LOCATED AT THE JUNCTURE OF INTERSTATE COMMERCE (THE TOWN’S ONLY BUS STATION WAS LOCATED THERE) ON THE HIGHWAY--IS A STORY WELL KNOWN BY NOW.

 

SAMMY WAS ASSASSINATED THAT NIGHT. HIS MURDER WAS RACIALLY AND, THEREFORE, POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. IT WAS WHAT WE CALL TODAY A "HATE CRIME," BUT A FINDING OF CRIMINAL CULPAB- ILITY NEVER ATTACHED TO HIS MURDERER. THE MAN WAS FOUND NOT GUILTY BY A WHITE JURY IN AN ADJOINING COUNTY A YEAR LATER. SAMMY DID NOT HAVE A GUN ON HIM, HIS MURDERER DID.

 

IMMEDIATELY, SNCC CADRE AND OFFICALS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY CAME TO OUR AID IN ORDER TO MOUNT DEMONSTRATIONS DEMANDING AN ARREST. THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE, DR. LUTHER FOSTER, WAS PRESSURED INTO LEADING THE FIRST MARCH AS A SHOW OF SYMBOLIC SUPPORT FOR SAMMY'S FAMILY AND HIS SURVIVING FRIENDS AND RELATIVES.

 

THE DEMONSTRATIONS WERE HUGE FOR A PLACE OF THIS SIDE AND THEY WERE SUSTAINED FOR WEEKS. AND THEY WERE REPEATED YEARLY ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF HIS DEATH FOR MANY YEARS THEREAFTER. 

 

I WAS TOLD OF THE WHEREABOUTS OF SAMMY'S FUNERAL, AND I DRESSED TO GO TO IT. BUT I COULD NOT BRING MY- SELF TO GO INTO THE CHURCH BECAUSE I WAS TOO AFRAID TO DO SO. THE FEAR I EXPERIENCED HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH PHYSICAL FEAR--FOR THERE WAS NO DANGER IN THAT RESPECT FOR ME NOR ANYONE ELSE. RATHER, IT WAS MORE IN THE NATURE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL OR EMOTIONAL DREAD. 

 

AS IT WAS, I HAD LOST MY FAVORITE UNCLE A FEW YEARS EARLIER IN A TRAGIC CAR ACCIDENT IN THE WESTERN SHORE OF MARYLAND, AND I SIMPLY COULD NOT BEAR IT. MY UNLCE WAS SO MUCH LIKE SAMMY YOUNGE JR. THAT THEY COULD HAVE BEEN SPIRITUAL TWINS. THEY WERE ALMOST OF THE SAME AGE, HAD THE SAME TEMPERMENT, AND HAD THE SAME PREOCCUPATIONS WITH ATTAINING FREEDOM FOR OUR PEOPLE. SO I WAITED NEARBY, BUT OUTSIDE.

 

AND WHILE I WAS WAITING FOR THE FUNERAL TO END, I MADE UP MY MIND TO HONOR SAMMY IN THE ONLY WAY THAT I COULD FIGURE OUT: VOTER REGISTRATION. THE NEXT MORNING I WALKED INTO THE POOR NEIGHBORHOODS OF EAST TUSKEGEE, QUITE ALONE, AND NOT KNOWING QUITE WHAT TO SAY TO ANYONE WHO ANSWERED THEIR DOORS WHEN I KNOCKED ON THEM. (IN FACT, I DID NOT EVEN HAVE VOTER REGISTRATION FORMS, NOR DID I EVEN KNOW WHAT THEY LOOKED LIKE BECAUSE I WAS TOO YOUNG MYSELF TO VOTE PRIOR TO THAT TIME). BUT I DID START MY WORK WITH SNCC DOING VOTER REGISTRATION IN MACON COUNTY THAT WEEK AFTER SAMMY'S DEATH. AND I CON- TINUED AN AFFILIATION WITH SNCC FOR THE NEXT FOUR YEARS.

 

POSTSCRIPT:  REBELLION AT TUSKEGEE, 1968

 

AFTER SEVERAL MONTHS, I LEFT TUSKEGEE FOR ABOUT A YEAR AND WORKED WITH SNCC PROJECTS IN ATLANTA, PHILADELPHIA, AND MOSTLY CHICAGO IN ITS URBAN ORGANIZING PROJECTS. I WAS IN RIOTS, I WAS JAILED ON SER- IOUS CHARGES LATER IN 1966 IN ATLANTA, BUT MANAGED TO GET AN INJUNCTIVE ORDER FROM WHAT WAS THEN THE FEDERAL 5TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS PREVENTING MY PROSECUTION UNDER THE INSURRECTION STATUTES OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA. FROM THERE I WENT ON TO SPEND THE COLDEST WINTER OF MY LIFE ORGANIZING ON THE SOUTH- SIDE OF CHI-TOWN (WHAT THEY CALLED "THE MISTAKE BY THE LAKE").

 

WHEN I RETURNED TO TUSKEGEE IN MID 1967 I OPENED A SNCC PROJECT OFFICE ON FONVILLE STREET AND STARTED ORGANIZING, FIRST IN LOWNDES COUNTY, BUT ALSO IN MACON COUNTY AND ON THE CAMPUS AGAIN. MY WORK IN- CLUDED COMMUNITY ORGANIZING WITH THE T.I.C.E.P. PROGRAM AND THE SOUTH-EAST ALABAMA SELF-HELP ASSO- CIATION (IN FACT, I NAMED THAT COOPER- ATIVE ORGANIZATION). OUR WORK INCLUDED AGITATING AGAINST THE DRAFT AND AGAINST THE VIETNAM WAR. IN THAT RESPECT, I HAD LED A PROTEST AGAINST THE REPRESENTATIVES SENT BY THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT IN WHICH WE DISRUPTED THEIR SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT, TO RATIONALIZE AND PROPGANDIZE THE WAR EFFORT, BY SYMBOLICALLY BOMBING THEM WITH ROTTED EGGS IN AN AUDITORIUM.

 

IN FEBRUARY, 1968, I LED A GROUP OF MY PEERS TO ORGANGEBURG, SC, TO LEND SUPPORT TO STUD- ENTS AND SNCC WORKERS THERE WHO HAD WITNESSED THE SHOOTING OF 28(!) OF THEIR PEERS ON THE CAMPUS OF SO. CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY FOR TRYING TO DESEGREGATE A BOWLING ALLY IN THE TOWN OF ORANGEBURG. WE WERE SO INCENSED BY THE MASSACRE THAT, IMMEDIATELY UPON RETURNING HERE, WE COVERTLY ORGANIZED A TAKE-OVER OF THE INSTITUTE PLANNED FOR APRIL, 1968, WHICH INCLUDED LOCKING ITS AUGUST BOARD OF TRUSTEES (INCLUDING A US ARMY GENERAL) UP IN A HOTEL FOR A FEW DAYS. OUR DEMANDS WERE VARIED, BUT COULD BE BOILED DOWN TO THE CONCEPT OF 'BLACK STUDIES" IN MOST CASES.

 

THIS PLAN WAS INITIATED ON APRIL 1st OR 2nd, 1968. THE DETAILS OF WHAT WE DID AND HOW WE OBTAINED THE SUPPORT OF 80% OF THE STUDENTS, SIGNIFICANT FACULTY MEMBERS, AND A NOTABLE CONTINGENT OF MACON COUNTY'S CITIZENS WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR ANOTHER DAY-- BECAUSE, AS I SAID, MY GOAL TODAY IS TO CELEBRATE SAMMY YOUNGE'S LEGACY, NOT MY OWN. BUT I CAN TELL YOU JUST A FEW INTERESTING THINGS:

                                                                                                                     *

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REBELLION MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAS ASSASSINATED

  

MARTINE LUTHER KING JR. WAS ASSASSINATED IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR SEIZURE OF THIS CAMPUS. ACCORDINGLY, MANY OF US HAD TO CONSIDER THE EFFECTS OF THIS AND DECIDE IF WE SHOULD PROCEED WITH KEEPING THE PRESSURE ON THE TRUSTEES TO ACQUIESCE TO OUR DEMANDS. WE DECIDED TO CONTINUE.

 

AT THAT TIME, THE BLACK SHERIFF OF THE COUNTY, A MAN NAMED LUCIUS AMERSON--A PERSON THAT I HAD NEARLY GOTTEN KILLED IN NOVEMBER OF 1966 GETTING ELLECTED TO BE THE FIRST BLACK SHERIFF IN THE SOUTH FOR THE PREVIOUS 100 YEARS--CALLED THE GOVERNOR OF ALABAMA, LURLEEN WALLACE (THE WIFE OF THE INFAMOUS BIGOT, GEORGE WALLACE) AND ASKED HER FOR A DECLARATION OF MARSHAL LAW AND FOR THE MOBILIZATION OF THE STATE'S NATIONAL GUARD (THAT IS, THOSE MEMBERS OF THE STATE'S NATIONAL GUARD THAT WERE NOT IN MEMPHIS, TENNESEE OVER- SEEING THE KILLING MARTIN LUTHER KING JR!) AND HALF OF ITS STATE POLICE FORCE AGAINST US TO FREE THE TRUSTEES.

 

AS FATE WOULD HAVE IT, THE LAST THING LURLEEN WALLACE DID ON EARTH WAS TO SIGN THE EXEC- UTIVE ORDER TO ACTIVATE THE ALABAMA NATIONAL GUARD AGAINST US, THEN SHE DIED THAT NIGHT OF CANCER.  AS I MEN-   TIONED, DR. KING HAD BEEN KILLED THE DAY BEFORE. SO--AND I WILL LEAVE THIS UP TO YOUR INTERPRETATION--THE LEADERS OF THE COLLEGE HELD A 10 MINUTE MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR DR. KING, AND THE NEXT DAY, A ONE HOUR SERVICE FOR LURLEEN WALLACE; BOTH IN LOGAN HALL AS I BEST RECALL.

 

NOW THIS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT I WOULD PRESENTLY URGE YOU TO TRY AT HOME, BUT IT WAS QUITE MOMEN- TOUS AS IT ALL UNFOLDED IN AN ATMOSPHERE WERE AT LEAST 200 CITIES--INCLUDING WASHINGTON DC--WERE IN FLAMES BECAUSE OF DR. KING'S ASSASSINATION. FOR A BRIEF TIME SE- VERAL OF MY PEERS AND I FLED TO MILLEG-     EVILLE, GEORGIA, BUT AFTER A WEEK WE RETURNED TO MACON COUNTY TO SUBMIT TO ARRESTS FOR VARIOUS MISDEMEANOR-LEVEL CRIMINAL CHARGES.

 

THERE WERE SHOW TRIALS DESIGNED TO LEGITIMIZE THE EXPULSION OF HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS FROM THE INSTIT- UTE (WHICH THEY ORIGINALLY DID) AND COLLATERAL PROCEEDINGS IN THE FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT IN    MONT- GOMERY. I DECIDED TO REMAIN IN TUSKEGEE FOR AT LEAST TWO MORE MONTHS TO TRY TO HELP RESETTLE MANY OF THE DISPLACED STUDENTS.

 

I DID NOT RETURN HERE FOR THREE YEARS BECAUSE, AFTER ALL OF THAT, TUSKEGEE’S OFFICIALS DECLARED ME PERSONA NON-GRATA, BUT FOR ONLY THREE YEARS (WHILE OTHERS, AS I MENTIONED, WERE PLOTING TO DO ME SUBSTANTIAL HARM).

 

NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT THAT I WAS AN UNMITIGATED PAIN-IN-ASS TO MANY OF THE NEGRO ESTABLISHMENT HERE, AGITATING THEM AT LEVELS SAMMY YOUNGE JR. NEVER DREAMED OF, SOME OF THEM (E.G.,THE BLACK LAW- YERS) WHO WERE PROSECUTING ME LEGALLY, AT THE END OF THE DAY, OFFERED TO PAY MY TUTITION TO THE UNIV- ERSITY OF ALABAMA AND SEND ME TO LAW SCHOOL HERE IN ALABAMA IF I WOULD ONLY AGREE TO PRACTICE IN THIS STATE FOR FIVE YEARS THEREAFTER.

 

NOW THAT'S THE SOUTH FOR YOU!

 

THE PARADOXES OF SOUTHERN RACIAL ACCOMMODATIONISM ARE MANY INDEED. I DID NOT ACCEPT THE OFFER, BUT I NEVER FORGOT GESTURES LIKE THAT. BLACK FOLK IN THE SOUTH HAVE ALWAYS VALUED EDUCATION FOR OUR PEO- PLE. IN FACT, I NEVER CAME ACROSS A SINGLE STUDENT AT TUS- KEGEE THAT WAS EVER TURNED AWAY FROM AN EDUCATION BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF MONEY IF THAT STUDENT WAS SINCERE . TUSKEGEE’S FACULTY AND ADMIN- ISTRATION—EVEN THOSE THAT I CONSIDERED THE NEMESIS OF OUR YOUTHFUL MOVEMENTS—MUST BE CREDITED FOR THEIR DEDI- CATION TO TUSKEGEE AND TO OUR HIGHER EDUCATION; INCLUDING MY OWN. 

 

AND EVEN OUR CONSERVATIVES--THE ESTABLISHED ONES-- WHO WERE IN HOCK TO THE ALABAMA EXCHANGE BANK, TO THE U.S. MILITARY, THE VETERAN'S ADMINISTRATION AND TO THE BOARD TRUSTEES ALSO HAD A POINT OF VIEW; ALBEIT A LARGELY SELF-SERVING ONE, THOUGH NOT ENTIRELY.

 

ADDITIONALLY, WHILE WE WERE RAISING HELL AT SOME OF THEM FOR THE WAY THEY RAN TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE, IF THEY HAD NOT SUFFERED THE INDIGNATIES OF ACCOMMODATIONISM THAT THEY DID,TO SOME EXTENT ON OUR BEHALVES, THERE MAY HAVE BEEN NO TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE FOR US TO RAISE HELL ABOUT IN THE FIRST PLACE IF IT WERE NOT FOR THEM. SO THERE ARE ALWAYS THREE SIDES TO EVERY STORY. THEREFORE, I URGE YOU TO BE  ANAL -YTIC ABOUT THE PAST; NOT PERSONALLY JUDGMENTAL ABOUT PEOPLE AND THEIR COMPLEXITIES AS INDIVIDUALS.

 

AS I NEAR THE END OF THIS WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE OF ADDRESSING YOU, LET ME SAY: I CAME HERE ON A DESCRIP- TIVE MISSION, NOT A PRESCRIPTIVE ONE. I KNOW NOTHING AT ALL ABOUT THE SUBSEQUENT HISTORY OF THIS AREA SINCE I LEFT IN MANY DECADES AGO. BUT I CAN SAY THIS. I WISH YOU GOD'S SPEED IN EVERYTHING THAT YOU DO AS FACULTY, ADMINISTRATORS, TRUSTEES, STUDENTS AND KINDRED TOWNS-FOLK TO KEEP THIS INSTITUTION ALIVE AND TO KEEP IT A FRIENDLY PLACE TO DEBATE THE GREAT ISSUES OF THE DAY. 

 

OUR PEOPLE ARE IN AS DIFFICULT A TIME AS WE HAVE EVER BEEN IN THIS VERY HOUR. MORE THAN EVER BEFORE WE NEED AFRICANA STUDIES BASED IN OUR ROOT AFRICAN CULTURES BY WHICH TO MEASURE THE VALUE (OR MIS-VALUE) OF OUR EUROCENTRIC EDUCATIONS. YES, MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND INFORMATION TECH- NOLOGY HAVE AN IMPORTANT PLACE IN THE TRAINING OF OUR YOUTH.

 

BUT KNOW THAT A TRAINED PERSON IS NOT, BY VIRTUE OF THAT FACT ALONE, AN EDUCATED ONE. THEREFORE, DO NOT TURN YOUR BACKS ON THE HUMANITIES, ON THE STUDY OF HISTORY, ON THE SOCIAL SCIENCES, ON LANGUAGES AND ANTHROPLOGY --ESPECIALLY THE AFROCENTRIC VERSIONS OF THESE FIELDS! TO DO SO WOULD BE THE ULTIM- ATE BETRAYAL OF OUR PAST GENERATIONS AND ITS MARTYRS LIKE SAMMY YOUNGE JR!

 

GOD BLESS YOU, I LOVE YOU AS I LOVE THIS PLACE, AND GOD BLESS YOUR AMERICA. SO LET'S MAKE THIS PLACE WHAT IT ALWAYS SHOULD HAVE BEEN. TAKE THIS PLEASE FROM A MAN WHO IS PERPETUALLY AWARE OF HIS MORTALITY AND WHO EFFORTLESSLY, THEREFORE, SALUTES YOU BASED ON BEING THE DIRECT DESCENDANT OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES WHO--ON THE EASTERN SHORE OF THE GREAT STATE OF MARYLAND--FORMED AMER- ICA'S VERY FIRST COMMMUNITY OF FREE AFRICANS. AND IT REMAINS TODAY.

 

I SALUTE YOU SINCERELY IN THE WORDS OF THE YORUBA (LUCUMI) RELIGIONISTS WHO COUNT ME IN THEIR NUMBERS: TUSKEGEE: "MAY THE HEAVENS SERVE AS YOUR BLANKET AND THE EARTH AS YOUR PILLOW FOREVER."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             SAMMY YOUNGE JR.   1944--1966