Al Hibbler

Al Hibbler was born in Tyro, Mississippi, in 1915.  He sang with Duke Ellington in the 1940s, and marched for civil rights in the 1950s and '60s.

When naming heroes and heroines of the modern civil rights movement you know of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis and the many others who marched, protested and, in some cases, gave their lives.  The list is endless, and the stories of heroes are a source of inspiration to today’s generations.  In some ways, they also provide a goal for others to strive to reach.

People need heroes because these remarkably brave people save or improve lives and because heroes are inspiring. It never hurts us to remind ourselves who our heroes are and what they represent for us, and to ask ourselves whether we are doing all we can to live up to these ideals.

But there is one brave man that is often forgotten. Al Hibbler, the first blind entertainer to gain national prominence. He sang with the Duke Ellington Band for eight and a half years before he left to make five recordings as a solo artist, three became Billboard pop hits.

In 1929, Hibbler’s parents sent him to the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock. He was a soprano in the school choir and developed into a baritone with perfect pitch.  He was the first Black singer to have a radio program in Little Rock.  In 1943 Hibbler joined the Duke Ellington band, where he recorded “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear from Me.” His other hits include “Unchained Melody,” “After the Lights Go Down Low,” “11th Hour Melody,” “Never Turn Back,” “He” and “Trees.’

But Al Hibbler was a hero we seldom hear or read about, and during the turbulent 1950s and ’60s, he was on the front line with Dick Gregory, Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr. and the others. Hibbler became a prominent figure in the civil rights movement. He marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and was arrested for civil disobedience in New Jersey in 1959 and in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 10, 1963, where he was picketing in front of the Trail-ways Bus Station.

Hibbler became a prominent figure in the civil rights movement.

With the marches and protests concerning the deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor and countless others, we need heroes first and foremost because our heroes help define the limits of our aspirations, but we must research and gain and retain information about them.

We largely define our ideals by the heroes we choose, and our ideals, such as courage, honor, and justice. Our heroes are symbols for us of all the qualities we would like to possess and all the ambitions we would like to satisfy and Al Hibbler was a true male protagonist. He must not be forgotten.

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