In order to grasp the spirit of what was occurring in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and dozens of other states, we must expand our consciousness to both learn the stories and embrace the leaders who have been relegated to the reference pages of history books. Davis W. Houck’s In Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965 is a compilation of 130 speeches that illustrate the role of religion in the development of the movement. But within his work, Houck also captures a collection of voices that have been disregarded.
“The problem with much of the civil rights scholarship is that it’s basically a ‘greatest hits’ album featuring the fairly famous civil rights leaders,” Houck told FSU News.
In the book’s introduction, Houck and his editor, David E. Dixon, write, “Dr. [Martin Luther] King got the headlines, the awards and the adulation, but the Ed Kings did the daily dirty work so essential to the movement’s many successes.” This sentence refers to Ed King, who ran for lieutenant governor of Mississippi in 1964 on the Freedom Ticket, and almost died in his pursuit of justice. A local segregationist ran a car he was riding in off the road.
In venerating the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, it is imperative to remember fighters like Lawrence Guyot (above), who spent his entire life in the trenches, even surviving intense jailhouse beatings during the 1960s. We must honor Fannie Lou Hamer (left), an activist who found her passion for the movement when she attempted to register to vote in Indianola, Mississippi. Though Hamer achieved mass acclaim later in her work, most of her earlier speeches have been lost. Houck transcribed one delivered in 1964 and included it in his book.