Dr. Frederick Douglas Reese wanted rights for all people and, in 1965, gathered teachers to boycott if they weren’t granted the right to vote in Alabama. He then invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to march with him in Selma, Alabama.
Hank Thomas wanted his dreams and the dreams of all other African Americans to come true, and in 1961 got on a Greyhound Bus to take a ride to the South, withstanding beatings, bombings and arrests.
Both Civil Rights leaders spoke to Newton County students this week, and preached for them to work for what they want.
They urged students of all races and religions that in today’s society, if they want to be anything at all, they have the ability to do it.
When Reese marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Douglas participated in the Freedom Rides, that wasn’t the case. Reese couldn’t vote, and Douglas wasn’t able to ride a bus or dine in the same area as whites.
Today, not only do we have a black President of the United States, but Newton County has a black Sheriff, government officials, judge, and business owners. Members of all races and religions are given the opportunity to be who they want to be and achieve what they dream of achieving.
According to Dr. Reese and Thomas, the key, however, is education and putting oneself in the right positions to succeed.We echo Dr. Reese and Thomas in urging students of all ages to not stand idly by in their own life, but to set goals, stay motivated, and don’t let anything stand in your way.
You should do it for yourselves. But also for those who fought, bled and died for what we have today.
Our veterans fight and die on battlefields to defend our constitution and the laws that govern our country. Brave men and women not in uniform, though, also fought, in the form of marching, sitting, protesting, speeches and silence in order to shape those laws.
Dr. Reese was chased, beaten and fired upon with tear gas so he could be represented in government. Thomas was arrested 22 times, beaten and imprisoned because he wanted everyone to have the same rights and be treated fairly. These were brave actions that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
As we celebrate Black History Month, we are faced with the reality of these living legends, the reality of the non-violent war they fought, and the reality of our own circumstances.
For anyone who hears or reads what men and women like Thomas and Dr. Reese did, and does not have the courage to fulfill their own dreams and do more with their own life, they dishonor the legacy of so many. They endured the pain, fear, sorrow, and humiliation for a future for everyone.
People like them sacrificed and stood up for a cause. Much of our current social activism is fought on the social media front. Their actions were not to raise the number of followers, increase their “likes,” or get a “retweet.” Their actions were for the greater good.
We hope that all the students who heard Dr. Reese and Thomas speak, students who have veterans in their families, or students who have ancestors who sacrificed for them don’t let it go for naught. Their legacy is one that paved the way to make the road smoother for all of us. We should be eager to follow that path, and extend it for the next generation.
It is our hope that the path gets easier for each generation, so that a bright future is a possibility for all, not just a dream.