NPR, ASU gather historic & national figures for bus boycott conversation

NPR, ASU gather historic & national figures for bus boycott conversation

MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) - National Public Radio teamed up with ASU for the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, hosting a community conversation that will be broadcast during Michel Martin's radio series "Going There."

Historic and national figures gathered to share their own candid memories and reflect on the work that still needs to be done.

"We are reminded that we come here in a year that's been filled with painful reminders of the worst of this country's racial history.

History came alive inside the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church Tuesday.

"The signs were there when I was growing up, colored only, white only," said ASU's President Gwendolyn Boyd.

"You had this contradiction that America was idealistic and yet raw and evasive on race," said Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian.

"In the process of trying to be a good pastor, I was supporting a movement," said civil rights icon Rev. Robert Graetz.

Riveting stories, some that struck chords of laughter from the chord, other sentiments of just how bad things were, from those that lived the movement first hand to change the course of history, even if it meant risking their lives.

"11 sticks of dynamite and a container of TNT," explains Graetz.  The only white pastor to openly support the boycott had his house bombed several times.

Rev. Robert Graetz found out about the bus boycott from Rosa Parks herself, they were personal friends. Even though the Klu Klux Klan did everything they could to run his family out of town, as he says, he just couldn't turn his back on 50,000 people.

"Standing together, walking together, standing up against an oppression against these people for many years and many generations, how could you walk away from a group like that," said Graetz.

Speakers and listeners agree that the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott is about honoring the past looking to the future and relevancy, today more than ever.

"We've gone from a situation where racism is overt in the form of you can't use this water foundation to there are policies and procedures that just accidentally suspend more black kids than white kids," said Ebony Howard, Managing Attorney for the Alabama Southern Poverty Law Office.

"If you want to hide something from some parts of the community, put it in a book and that needs to go away as a stereotype of our community, we need to embrace education," said President Boyd.

The conversation surrounding racial equality is nowhere near over, it's one that continues to mold and shape not only Montgomery but the country.

"This was the beginning of freedom not only for who would ride the buses here but it was going to open doors for freedom for large numbers of people and in that sense, the people in this bus boycott were leaders of all America," said Branch.

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