Bernie Hayes

Did you celebrate Juneteenth? Have you purchased your meats and delicacies for the 4th of July? There are many African Americans who will not celebrate America’s Independence Day.

Most because of what Frederick Douglas said in a speech, "What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” Douglass said it is a day “that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery."

And W.E.B. DuBois wrote: "We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American, political, civil and social; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America! The battle we wage is not for ourselves alone but for all true Americans. It is a fight for ideals, lest this, our common fatherland, false to its founding, become in truth, the land of the thief and the home of the slave, a byword and a hissing among the nations for its sounding pretensions and pitiful accomplishments."

So if you want to have a family festivity or gathering, what about celebrating July 12? That’s the birthday of E.D. Nixon. Nixon, an African-American civil rights leader and union organizer, is remembered primarily for helping lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama from 1955 to 1956. Nixon became involved with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, an African-American union founded and presided over by A. Philip Randolph. The union president inspired Nixon to action, and he went on to become the leader of its Alabama branch and a thoughtful, empowering community activist who largely influenced the Civil Rights Movement.

Nixon was looking for a way to formally challenge Montgomery’s segregationist laws. On December 1, 1955, when fellow NAACP member Rosa Parks refused once again to surrender her seat on a bus to a white passenger, she was arrested. Nixon played a key role in providing bail for Parks and also enlisted the aid of white attorney Clifford Durr and his spouse Virginia.

Nixon believed that the event could spur a boycott of the area's bus lines and be processed via legal channels, convincing Parks of the power of her case. He also enlisted the aid of a new, young preacher at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to lead the boycott. As a result Nixon, King and minister Ralph D. Abernathy helped to form the Montgomery Improvement Association, with Nixon serving as treasurer.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted for more than 380 days, with the African-American community enduring a host of travails that included harassment and violent attacks. Nixon's home was firebombed two days after King's, and he was indicted for violating a state anti-boycott statute. Yet the boycott persevered, and the city was eventually forced to lift its bus segregation laws.

So, if you will not celebrate the 4th of July, consider July 12 and spread the word.

Please watch the Bernie Hayes TV program Saturday night at 10 p.m. and Sunday evenings at 5:30 p.m. on NLEC-TV Ch. 24.2. I can be reached by fax at (314) 837-3369, on e-mail at berhay@swbell.net or on Twitter @berhay.

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