Reader’s Corner: John Lewis and Thomas Merton

On Bloody Sunday in 1965, the late civil rights icon John Lewis (who passed away last Friday) was marching with other voting-rights activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama when they were attacked by a mob of police and vigilantes. Many marchers were hospitalized, including Lewis, who suffered a fractured skull.

Lewis had planned to be arrested, so he had a backup with a few essentials: fruit and some books. One of the books was The Seven-Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and writer whose work Lewis studied during the civil rights movement.

Later, Lewis said the books were never recovered:

I just wished I had them. The Smithsonian and the Library of Congress are always asking me what happened to them and I tell them I really don’t know.

Weekend Reading: March 10, 2017

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Quote of the Day: Golden Globes edition

Recreating the march in 'Selma' (Paramount Pictures)
Recreating the march in ‘Selma’ (Paramount Pictures)

In Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s monologue at the start of last night’s more anti-climactic than usual Golden Globe Awards, they referenced the film Selma (which, again, tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s leading the dramatic civil rights march through what was essentially enemy territory in Alabama in 1965).

It starts with a mediocre gag and follows up with one of the most pointed lines of any recent awards show:

… in the 1960s, thousands of black people from all over America came together with one common goal: To form Sly and the Family Stone [some laughter] … But the movie Selma is about the American civil rights movement that totally worked and now everything’s fine.

Department of Weekend Reading: January 2, 2015

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Department of Weekend Reading: January 2, 2015

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New in Theaters: The March from ‘Selma’

Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) leads the charge in 'Selma' (Paramount Pictures)
Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) leads the charge in ‘Selma’ (Paramount Pictures)

Selma-posterThe passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 might have technically outlawed most racist policies in the United States, but that didn’t stop much of it in practice. When Martin Luther King, Jr. led the march from Selma to Birmingham, he wasn’t just making a symbolic act, he was deliberating provoking die-hard racists in order to force President Lyndon Johnson to pass a law that would help stop racism on the ground: The Voting Rights Act.

Ava DuVernay’s spectacular protest film Selma opens on Christmas Day; make sure to check it out. My review is at PopMatters:

Throughout the film, King makes no apologies for inciting trouble. His detractors in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), including a young John Lewis (Stephan James), initially resent the SCLC showing up in Selma where they’ve been working on voter issues for years. When they suggest that King is a publicity hound, he doesn’t disagree. To him, the motivating principle of nonviolent protest is not only its moral imperative, but also its demonstration to white Americans the persistent costs of racism and segregation. To do this, he and his colleagues seek news coverage, to reveal stories of violent repression in their morning newspaper headlines and evening TV broadcasts…

The trailer is here: