Welcome to my blog about Civil Rights history!
The figure above is at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. At the end of touring the Institute, the visitors come to these life-size figures of a diverse group marching forward for the Movement for racial justice. Each visitor is invited to join them going forward together.
These next blogs about the sites and secrets of the Civil Rights Movement will help you do that. Come and join me on this journey.
Welcome! This is the first of my new series of blogs which, I hope, will be interesting, informative, and inspiring for y’all. I am writing out of my passion for sharing our universal American history of racial issues and working toward racial justice and reconciliation.
If you have a love of history, this is the place for you. If you have any interest in learning about the civil rights landmarks, museums, etc. around the south, this is the place for you. If you like to learn the behind-the-scenes facts and stories about the civil rights movement events that almost no-one has ever heard of, this is the place for you. If you’ve considered planning a trip to the important locations involving our civil rights history, this blog will help you. If you want to talk with some of the actual foot soldiers of the Movement, I can direct you to them.
My goal is to take you on a pilgrimage to places like Selma, Montgomery, Marion, Jackson and more, and it will all be for free!
So, why should you come on this pilgrimage with me? In other words, what are my credentials? To let you know my qualifications, I need to tell you my story. (Don’t worry, I won’t tell EVERYTHING.)
I grew up in a small village in New York in a home with a father who was racist and a mother who had compassion and acceptance for all people. Fortunately, I have taken after my mother. I have always had a special heart for stories of the south, acknowledging its eccentricities and its cruelties, and I’ve had the desire to make a difference concerning those cruelties in whatever way I could.
On a family trip to the Memphis area when I was about eleven, my sister and I boldly drank from the “colored” water fountain rather than the “white” one as a statement of our protest. At first, I thought it was pretty daring and I expected that such an audacious act would mean something. However, as time passed and I learned more and matured, I came to the conviction that I could never make that difference I had hoped to make.
Life went on. I got my degree in social work from Mary Washington College – at that time it was the women’s college of the University of Virginia. I worked as a counselor at a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in Alexandria, VA, and married my soul mate, Frank Kile Turner, a USMC Lt. He whisked me away to Camp Pendleton, CA, the first of our 18 moves.
Around the early 1980s, I accidently fell into having my books and articles published in the Christian market. That story is for another blog.
(Don’t worry. I’m almost to the point of all this – how I got into the work of racial justice and reconciliation.) When we moved to Jacksonville, FL, I learned about Anna Kingsley. She had survived the Middle Passage from Senegal as an enslaved person at age twelve and ended up running Kingsley Plantation near Jacksonville, which is now a National Park. I was intrigued by her life, although there was only one small book about her in the gift shop. I decided to write her story. Freedom Bound was the result, and it won the Florida First Coast Writers’ Award.
Writing that book was the beginning of turning my life in a different direction. I was hooked on doing historical research, especially regarding matters of race. I wrote two other books before my next book involving race, March With Me. We were living in Birmingham, Alabama at that time and I became fascinated by the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham. No one seemed to know or remember about it.
As a result, I wrote March With Me , which told the story of the Children’s March and of the racial situation in Birmingham at that time. March With Me was an IndieFab Book of the Year Award winner and also a finalist for Best Book Awards with AmericanBookFest.com.
My next book, Layers of Truth, is historical fiction set during Freedom Summer in 1964 in Mississippi. It will be out in early 2023.
Because of all the research I had done (I’m fanatic about accurate historical research!) I began speaking in schools about the Children’s March and the Civil Rights Movement. When I spoke to a class at my husband’s alma mater, Texas A & M U -Commerce, the professor and students seemed interested in learning more. We suggested that the professor, Dr. Lavelle Hendricks, bring a couple of students and come visit us some weekend in Alabama. We could show them some of the iconic Civil Rights places.
A few weeks later we were pleased when Dr. Hendricks called to accept our invitation. Then he said, “I’m bringing 25 students. Can you put together a week-long tour for us?”
How could we say no?
That was the first of what has become an annual tour for the 3-credit-hour course Dr. Hendricks leads. A few years ago, he asked us to develop a tour for Mississippi’s Civil Rights history since we also have lived in Mississippi.
We have additionally been doing pilgrimage tours for church-based groups from North Carolina, where we now live. We have been doing all these tours for just over ten years. My husband and I do this together, the researching, the arranging, and the speaking to groups and in lecture series. We do not do this in any commercial way. This is our passion, and we are happy to organize these tours and tell about the history. We believe we all need to learn the true history, to see how systemic racism was built into our country, and to hear about the thousands of courageous people whose names you will never see in the history books.
So, I invite you on this pilgrimage as, blog by blog, I will share our tours and the history. You can use the information to put together your own tours. You can use any part of it in any way you choose. Or you can just read and be amazed by some of the things that have happened in our past and be dismayed at how the stories relate to today’s world.
The next blog next week will start us on our way to Alabama. See you there!
I welcome your questions and comments.