Above image: Jean Denton Thompson

Image below: Jean Thompson, 1961

1. January 5, 1942, Margaret Leonard, Louisville, KY - #21046

2. January 8, 1936, Robert Singleton, Philadelphia, PA - #21265

3. January 9, 1942, William Harbour, Piedmont, AL - #20902

4. January 10, 1040, Jesse Harris, Jackson, MS - #21114

5. January 13, 1942, Jean Thompson, Lake Providence,LA - #20874

6. January 15, 1945, Luvaghn Brown, Jackson, MS #21114

7. January 16, 1937, Ed Kale, Des Moines, IA - #20957

8. January 16, 1938, Bill Svanoe, Wilmington, DE - #21193

9. January 19, 1941, Charles Purnell, Rolling Fork, MS - #21054

10. January 28, 1945, Alphonso Petway, Pensacola, FL - #21241

11. January 30, 1938, Morton Linder, Philadelphia, PA - #21234

Above image: Luvaghn Brown, 1961

Below: a more recent image of Luvaghn Brown


New year.

Same stuff matters.

Do you know any January babies who share birthdays with these folks? If you were born before 1980, home video game systems, MTV and cable TV, or if you're read past editions of this newsletter, the above photos likely tell you what these people have in common.

If you were born after? Well, you might have to have spent some time at the knee of somebody who was older and paid some attention to the civil rights movement...or was active in it. Or you'd have to be well read on modern U.S. history.

But they're all Freedom Riders. They're some of the civil rights foot soldiers who were born in the month of January.

I want to invite you to pick one of them...just one...any one...and look him or her up this week. I promise it won't take any time away from the web surfing and rabbit-hole diving you and I already do.

By the way, if this looks like a long list, these folks amount to merely 2 percent of the civilian army that volunteered as Freedom Riders. There were roughly 400, and that number doesn't include all of their organizers and aides.

Giving birth to freedom was risky business. Painful. Dangerous. And it took a village of Riders to do it by building the civil rights movement. To make a difference. To make change. But then, it always does, right?

There's been talk of late by revisionists that the civil rights movement wasn't political. That Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Republican and that he wasn't political either. Well, wouldn't you say that's not taking a whole lot into account? Including that what he was preaching was a moral imperative. And that the moral...is judicial...is political. It's all entwined together. They weren't and aren't mutually exclusive.

Who's served by dodging the truth and reality of history? Why was the FBI trying to frame and smear King? And how much time did King spend in LBJ's office? Iin LBJ's face? In LBJ's ear? Slaves were freed because Frederick Douglass did the same with Abraham Lincoln. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. was political because his moral indignation could not help but be political. And let's keep in mind that he did not make the movement all on his own. All of these people, these January babies and then some, made the movement that he -- to our benefit -- rose to prominence in. It's really important that we understand this.

And of course not one of them was born thinking, "When I grow up, this is what I want to do. I wanna have a target on my back. I wanna get beat up for making a point. I wanna have to watch my back for insisting on fair and equal treatment under the law. I want to risk abuse and death for asking my country to live up to the letter and spirit of the law." Nope. Not one. But when it mattered, they chose to take the risks for change, because they knew they couldn't assume someone else was going to do it for them. For us.

Anyway, happy birthday Margaret, Robert, William, Jesse, Jean, Luvaghn, Ed, Bill, Charles, Alphonso, and Morton. And thanks for the choices you made.

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