On the “Seven Days of 1961” podcast, activists, many of whom were teenagers, share how they risked everything to challenge white supremacy.
There are lessons in fighting racist laws: the activists used tactics like “jail, no bail” to turn the tables on those in power. They wore their Sunday best to persuade critics they were lawful citizens. They practiced nonviolence against violent police officers and KKK foes to win over public support.
Each person featured on the podcast played a part in helping the country try to reach a turning point: ban segregation and expand voting access.
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Hit play on the podcast player above and read along with the transcript below.
Are we going to be brave enough to go in with that huge crowd?
I think we were all thinking the same thing: what are we in for?
We’re bringing you stories of resistance from the year 1961, a time that led to sweeping change in the United States, directly from the people who lived them.
Ethel Sawyer Adolphe:
We were taken back in those police cars. And had we not been? Any car with us on the road back? We probably would not be alive now.
From USA TODAY, “Seven Days of 1961” highlights the people and everyday acts of resistance that fueled the civil rights movement. Their work helped to create major changes in national policy, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They are monumental stories of fighting injustice, despite the threats of death, violence, and jail at the hands of their white neighbors, law enforcement and the Ku Klux Klan.
I was always aware of being hurt, but it wasn’t enough to scare me not to go to a demonstration because I thought that we could accomplish something.
These civil rights veterans are sharing lessons in fighting racist laws and white supremacy against all obstacles.
When the bus started to burn, we all knew that if we got off the bus we’d probably be killed. I made a decision. I’m only 19 years old. Whether I’m going to be beaten to death, or whether I’m going to die on that burning bus.
I’m Natalie Boyd, a podcast producer with USA TODAY. In each episode, an activist shares how they dared to challenge the powerful in a segregated society.
The students walked out with me. And here are these people. It was like a wall engulfing me. At that point, I knew I wasn’t alone.