The Baptist minister and director of nationwide associates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had led a bunch of individuals to register to vote in Selma, Alabama, on February 16, 1965.
“I had to get back up because otherwise people would have been defeated by violence. We can never allow violence to defeat nonviolence,” he wrote within the memoir, which comes out March 9 and is co-authored by Steve Fiffer.
The confrontation between Vivian and Sheriff Jim Clark has been described by historians as one of the vital defining moments of the 1960s civil rights motion, partially as a result of it was televised.
Vivian died final summer time on the age of 95 as Americans have been pressured to grapple with the emotional penalties of seeing the deaths of George Floyd and different Black individuals by the hands of police. The photos of protesters being tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets have been reminders that the injuries of racial injustice had by no means actually healed.
Before his passing, Vivian mirrored on his message of nonviolence for the memoir and the way it’s not a shock that the battle for voting rights and “all of the human rights systematically denied” continues a long time after he was punched in 1965.
Reaching the conscience of individuals
White America persistently says that it values the Constitution and the Bible, Al Vivian, the son of the civil rights chief, informed Source. And his father would say that “every argument we ever used lined up with those two documents.”
“You find out what people say they value, you hold them accountable to that,” Al Vivian mentioned his father defined. “You prove to them that either they’re not what they really say they are, they don’t really value that or you force them to prove that they do.”
Vivian solely started writing the e-book lately, which quickly proved difficult.
Fiffer, the memoir’s co-author, mentioned Vivian was almost 94 years previous after they started collaborating. They spoke for hours about Vivian’s life however because the months handed, a few of his recollections started fading.
Yet, his life experiences remained classes in what it means to be pushed by a goal and a dedication to making sure Black Americans have been assured the identical fundamental human rights as White Americans.
“It does not matter whether you are beaten; that’s a secondary matter. The only important thing is that you reach the conscience of those who are with you and of anyone watching — both the so-called enemy, and those who are preparing the battle, and anyone else who may be watching,” Vivian wrote.
Al Vivian mentioned lots of his father’s classes might assist younger activists, particularly now because the nation stays deeply divided. His father was an advocate for nonviolent motion, training and a person of religion. Those views are infused into all elements of the e-book.
The memoir chronicles Vivian’s childhood in segregated Boonville, Missouri, and western Illinois within the mid-1920s and 1930s; how he skilled racism in highschool and faculty; and the way activism took him throughout a number of cities within the United States.
“I’ve been asked many times when I first realized that our blackness put us in a different position in the country. I always answer, ‘When I was born!’ It’s impossible not to know,” Vivian wrote.
His first nonviolent protest passed off a few years earlier than the civil rights motion. He held demonstrations and lunch-counter sit-ins in Peoria, Illinois, the place downtown eating places would not serve Black individuals. After months of motion, organizers efficiently assured them service, Vivian wrote.
He additionally devoted pages of his memoir to his participation within the Freedom Rides, his work in Selma as director of nationwide associates for Martin Luther King Jr.’s SCLC and his efforts to desegregate St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964 whereas going through arrests and brutal beatings.
‘He wasn’t making an attempt to take the limelight’
“Dad always tried to stay in the background, it was never about him,” Al Vivian mentioned. “He wasn’t trying to take the limelight.”
Throughout, Vivian shined a lightweight onto the work that many others did to advance the motion, together with civil rights leaders Diane Nash and the late Rep. John Lewis.
Vivian handed away earlier than they might end the manuscript or focus on his life after the mid-1970s intimately. Fiffer mentioned he wished they might have talked extra concerning the creation of the National Anti-Klan Network, an anti-racism group that centered on monitoring the Ku Klux Klan. Vivian’s efforts to foster office race relations and his travels exterior the United States.
The author mentioned he used a few of Vivian’s earlier interviews and information tales to complement components of the e-book and add highlights from that point interval.
“While we all may wish this memoir had been written years ago, we trust the pages that follow present a picture of the character and deeds of one of the true heroes of American history,” Fiffer wrote within the e-book.
Although the memoir will not be exhaustive, Fiffer hopes it will possibly encourage others to study and perhaps even write extra concerning the late civil rights organizer.