Saturday, November 22, 2008

Looking Back on Segregation: An audio sample

I'd like to try something new in this blog post and present an audio clip from the soundtrack of Dare Not Walk Alone. Please let me know if you find it interesting. If it works, I will try adding some music from the soundtrack as well.

Post-screening discussions of the film sometimes revolve around one historical figure, and it's not Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Maybe it's because so much is already known about Dr. King but attention tends to focus on one person against whom Dr. King squared off in the final confrontation before the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: James Brock.

It's not that Dr. King sought a fight with Mr. Brock or that Mr. Brock took on Dr. King. You might even say that Mr. Brock was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 1964 Mr. Brock owned one of the most prominent motels in the City of St. Augustine, America's oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin. This was long before Disney World and St. Augustine was one of Florida's leading tourist destinations. That made it a prime target for people campaigning to ban segregation in restaurants and motels, in swimming pools and on beaches (yes folks, in 1964 the Atlantic Ocean itself was segregated--something the Beatles probably didn't think about when they flew over it to perform on the Ed Sullivan show in February of that year).

Mr. Brock was a prominent local businessman. He started the organization that became the United Way of St. Johns County. Most of the business owners in St. Johns County were white and most were opposed to segregation. Mr. Brock's personal position is unclear. He made statements opposing desegregation, but also expressed a willingness to integrate if the law was changed (the law in Florida required segregation). When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed he opened his motel and restaurant to all races; several former protesters have talked about being made welcome there. Mr. Brock's established was then picketed by Klan supporters objecting to his conformation with the new federal law.

Listen now as the late Mr. Brock, speaking in 2004, talks about some of the events of 1964 (in this excerpt from the soundtrack of Dare Not Walk Alone--click the small white > button to start the audio).


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