Eyes on the Prize
Read Others' Views: Memories of the Movement

Do you have memories or family stories of the civil rights movement? Be among the first to send them in -- and we'll post them here. You can also read a series of reflections on the era.

One of the greatest inhumanities was the treatment of blacks when I was growing up. Born in 1949 I was too young to realize what was going on in most of the stories your program has covered. It was hard seeing blacks having to use back entrances to most restaurants and there were the bathrooms marked blacks and whites.

I had a small brush with one of the most devastating times that took place in 1968. I was in college and a local friend came back from Kansas City, Missouri where he attended school. He asked me to ride back out to KC with him and show me around. We took a southern route through Memphis, Tennessee right after Martin Luther King was murdered. We stayed at KC, then the day we left KC that night there was a city block burned down. We came back the southern route and this time we passed Atlanta, Georgia on the Interstate and it was lined with marchers going into Atlanta.

This was a very important time in my life and I decided to use my talents and help integration work by coaching blacks and whites in football and baseball showing them that they were the ones that was going to make it work.

You asked, if I had Heroes and my answer is the blacks that were forced to attend white schools in 1968 and making it work. I tell each one that I can remember from that time that made the transition work.

Thank you, for allowing me to express myself on this issue.

Lexington, NC

Thank you so much for presenting this series, "Eyes on the Prize". We were a white family living in a racially changing Baltimore community during those days. We were not active out-of-state, but we did work with our neighbors to open "whites only" establishments to all people. Even though we were watching television reports of the violence in the southern states, I was not aware of how vicious it was. We need to be reminded, not only of the white hatred, but also of the great courage of the African American people involved in the movement ... adults, students, and children. Such bravery should not be forgotten.

Again, thanks for providing this segment of American history. We hope there will be future episodes.

P. Y.
Baltimore, MD
(Permission Field Left Blank)

I grew up in DC in the 50's and went to an integrated 2nd grade in 1954. I remember internalizing some of the negative sentiments of my white teachers. My parents, in their attempts to shield me from the realities of life, did not discuss the racism that I might encounter there. But, in school, it made me feel ashamed that African Americans had not contributed to the development of our country, or so I thought. I did not see African Americans in my textbooks nor did I hear them discussed in class, except in reference to slavery.

It was not until years later (1960) when I was in Junior High School, during Negro History week, that I learned of our contributions. I remember seeing the photo of Emmett Till in the Jet magazine. I remember being sent south in the summer when school was out, like so many of my friends. That existence was a demarcation from my life in inner city DC, even though our existence was somewhat better, it was still segregated to a great extent.

The production of Eyes on the Prize was a great revelation of our story and piqued my interest in Black History. Knowing one's history, our struggles and our contributions, for me, was very enlightening and empowering. I truly believe that those who don't know their history are destined to repeat it. Our children desperately need to know their history, so that they will have a sense of pride from where they came and also an appreciation of all of the rights they so take for granted. I take great pride in knowing my history. Every time one of my heroes passes away, it's like I have lost a great gem. I commit to never forget them and to let my grandchildren know about them. They are the fabric of my existence.

My children and I watched Eyes on the Prize in 1993 together. We discussed it and I shared all of my memories of what life was like for us as a people during that era, both in DC and in the South. I truly wish that all families would do the same. It is so important to who we are as a people.

Our children need to know their value and the value of obtaining the education that was denied us for so long, and the importance of voting. It should be a part of our schools history program. Thank you so much for showing it again.

Cynthia A. Wilson
Bowie, Marlyand

I don't have memories of the movement but I do know that what had happened is soooo unjustified ... and what the whites did was extremely wrong ... and it just fumes me to know that the whites would do that ... I am a 9th grader at The Center for Arts and Technology, Pickering Campus in Phoenixville, PA ... and in one of my classes we had to do a project on the different topics of the Civil Rights Movement and I had chosen the Emmett Till murder and when i read what had happened ... and I was astounded by what the whites did to the African Americans ... it just makes me sooooooooooo mad...

Danielle Geary
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the documentary Monday night. I try to educate young African Americans about our brave brothers and sisters during those turbulent years. I saw my high school teacher in the grocery store and thanked him for allowing us to pray for the marchers along with other SNCC members and Dr. King and SCLC. I am 57 years old and remember the riots in Raleigh and also marched myself.

M. R.

After the civil war there were some African Americans who fought for equality. Despite their valiant efforts they are pretty much ignored because of the failure of their movement. Of particular interest is Louis A. Martinet, a colored lawyer and doctor who lead the fight against Jim Crow in the courts with the case Plessy v. Ferguson. He was an educator (Latin and French teacher, Louisiana State Board of Education member, Southern University regent), legislator (member of the Louisiana legislature), publisher (The Crusader), lawyer (District Attorney of St. Martin Parish, and medical doctor. Yet, he is unappreciated because, when he died, the civil rights movement was at its nadir. In the 1950s, the Civil Rights movement used his tactics with much different results as shown in your recent documentary "The Story of the Movement." Yet, the pioneering effort of Dr. Martinet are never recognized.

Civil rights did not begin in 1950. Blacks never accepted Jim Crow. Dr. Martinet fought until his death for equality. The movement continued with many of his followers and the NAACP. The 1950-60 was the culmination of the movement, not the start. Honor the founders, who had little hope of victory, for they are the ones who initiated and kept the movement alive until the time that the movement would be accepted and victorious.

Brian Martinet
Kent, Washington

My 'Memories of the Movement' are what I lived through. We currently reside in the exburbs of Atlanta but I grew up in Michigan and was witness to much racism. Here is what my daughter is bothered by; Bayard Rustin. He was a stalwart in the civil rights movement, in fact HE put together the March on Washington. And yet, for some reason, he is totally absent in Eyes on the Prize. NO mention of him at all. I and my daughter's AP history teacher is how she even knows who he was and what impact he had on the civil rights movement. WHY??

Kriste Kline
Lawenceville, Georgia

Is Rosa Parks the only person besides Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who believed in the civil rights movement?

Gainesville, Florida

I, Jo Helen Cruse, lived in Beaumont Texas with my mother as a child. I remember sitting at the back of the bus when I was a teen. I had to drank out of fountains that said colors only. I was all ways hearing the word "nigger" coming from whites that drove their cars through our neighborhoods. When I was fifteen years old, my mother worked as a waitress and cook at the five and dime store in downtown Beaumont called Neisners. When ever I would go into the store to order me a burger, I had to stand up to eat because I was not allowed to sit down at the counter. They kept the counters roped off with only a few seats for each white person to sit as they came in to eat. It made me very angry because I had to stand up. One day I came in to eat and I sat down at the counter and a white female told me to move that I was not allowed to sit and my mother, Helen Cruse stood up and defended me and I continued to sit. As I grew older, age 22, 1966, I remember still going to the back doors of restaurants and doctors' offices that stated: Coloreds only. I started to speak up for myself because I was so angry. One time traveling to Woodville, Texas, my husband and I stopped to get a bite to eat at a cafe, I went through the front door to be served and we were told that coloreds eat out back, I was furiously mad, and I said, "I hoped it is better back there because it smelled like sh** up here. This really affected me I now know. My grandpa was white and he married a woman black as the ace of spades. He hated being called white. He was a good man and he made a difference in my life. Now I live in Oklahoma City. I am 61 and I have no hated toward white folk; there are some good and bad in every race. I love everybody, well, almost everybody.

Jo Helen Cruse
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I started working with civil rights, unknowingly, in Vietnam. After returning home I entered Morgan State College and became involved with voter registration. After nearly two years of combat, I had seen and experienced just about every human condition possible until I attempted to register blacks to vote. Fear is a terrible thing, especially generations of fear. This is what we encountered from blacks. Decades of indescribable fear!!! This was a different type of fear compared to the fear of war. This was uncontrollable fear!!!!! Fear that provided you with no recourse or method of counter acting or responding in any manner. Fear that left you exposed to all aspects of society because of the color of your skin. In war there is recourse against any form of racism that is directly or indirectly perpetuated against or towards you. But the type of fear in many Southern states was home grown Terrorism against a race of people who merely wanted just an infinitesimal part of the American dream, THE RIGHT TO REGISTER AND VOTE!!!!

Charles E. Cager
Baltimore, Maryland

"Eyes" caused me to think about the times and events that changed my thinking about race. I grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, in the 1950's and graduated High School in 1959. Unlike most of my white friends, I knew many blacks from a very early age, due to the fact that my father operated a retail business in the segregated black section of town. I just accepted the way it was; the maltreatment, the segregation, the attitude of my friends. My mother, an active liberal, began talking to me about how I was to treat people from an early age. But the truth is, I was influenced more by the social mores of the community around me, than by my mother. But the night I saw the events at Little Rock's Central High on the newly acquired TV set, I changed. The mob chasing the tall man in the business suit, shook me. I had witnessed fights on the picket lines, as my father and his fellow OCAW union workers, fought for higher pay and better working conditions. This impacted me in a more forceful way.

I had a Jewish doctor who had escaped the Nazi nightmare. Mom had told me the stories of WW2... But, as I said, this was close to home, and I decided that night, racism was wrong... It took five years before I had the courage to express my feelings outside the family. As a college student in the 60's, and later as a law student, I gained the courage and maturity to speak out... The movement changed many southern attitudes. Most assuredly, not enough... Over the last three and a half decades, I have represented many minorities before juries, and I have witnessed much progress. Not all have changed, not even most, but a lot have... I have read many books, traveled into the deep south, but nothing has touched me like Eyes On The Prize. It is the miracle of film that enables one to re-live in a sense, the moments when human beings found the courage to stand up to social, political, and economic wrongs. The country is a better place for the effort. Thank you for letting an old guy vent a little. Thank you for documenting a time that was long overdue.

John R. Heath Sr.
Nacogdoches, Texas

I worked at Dr. King's headquarters at 14th and U. in Washington D.C. and helped in any way I could.

I saw the series these past few weeks "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize", and it brought back so many precious memories.

I had written several letters to my sister at that time and still have them, telling of my exploits as a white woman fighting for civil rights for all Americans. I have written for several years on a forum of my experiences and about those great men I met at that time and had the pleasure of working with.

I was introduced to the movement at the Ali rally for Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) who was daring to refuse to fight in the armed services of that day. He was my first black hero, and many more inspired me after him. Rev. Abernathy was an eloquent speaker. I heard him speak often, but seldom had the privilege of hearing Dr. King. I was at his headquarters when he was assassinated.

Alma Ravgiala
Nashville, Tennessee

I remember that I was eight years old at the time. I was the youngest of seven kids. My mother decided that she wanted us to get a better education than what we were getting at the all black schools, so we were sent to an all white school. At the time the civil rights bill had just been passed and she wanted to take advantage of it. There were only ten blacks that went into that school in 1965. We were so scared. But I am so glad now that I went. I am proud of being part of the group that went into that all white school. I feel like we were part of history.

Sherry Cherry
New Bern, North Carolina

I have never understood, what the fear was against people of a darker race. I asked this question to a Political Science professor. The response was, "I don't know."

I can recall living in the State of Texas in the 1960s as a brown-skinned girl. When the schools started integration into an all white school in an all white neighborhood, the principal or the vice principal did not make me feel welcome from the start. I felt as if I was out of place. I did not want to go there either.

Des Moines, Iowa

The segment tonight (Oct 13) brought back some fond and scary memories. I remember being an 11-year-old boy on the high diving board at Tift Park Pool in Albany, GA. I turned around toward the street and saw a large group of people walking down the street and into the pool parking lot. I did not know what was going on, but soon the lifeguards were blowing their whistles and telling us to clear the pool. As my brother and I exited the pool, I remember coming out into the corridor outside the pool to a crowd of news people, police, and Dr. King (although I did not know then that this was him). My dad had greeted us and drove us home. It was all very surreal and is fixed in my memory. The Chief of Police's wife was one of my teachers at St. Teresa Catholic School so this event had a lot of impact on all of us.

I know in the week following we were all scared because we were young and did not know what was going on and our imaginations were on overtime despite my Dad's calming words to us all.

Bob Mock
Riverdale, Georgia

Amazing after all the decades that have past since I first heard MLK Jr. speak those words, they still bring goose bumps to my flesh. An outstanding series. It's good to revisit the issue once again. It is good to remind ourselves of our past wrongs, the cost paid by some and the burden on others.

Jim Flaherty
Winnipeg, Canada

I was just 10 years old when this embarrassing issue of civil rights took place; especially in Mississippi and Alabama. If I could, I would apologize to all African Americans, especially those who endured this traumatic crusade during this time. It sickens me to think that there were so many racist and bigots during that era. So many narrow-minded whites that thought they were better than anyone else. To think that blacks weren't even allowed to sit at a soda fountain or lunch counters and ordered to sit in the back of the bus and having their own restrooms and water fountains. This kind of backwards thinking just sickens me to no end! I'm so grateful that my parents raised me to love everyone regardless of the color of their skin. And I'm glad, for the most part, that we have overcome that era of hatred and bigotry. It was a sad and embarrassing time for America. Forgive us.

Ray Kilinski
Orlando, Florida

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Eyes on the Prize Blackside American Experience