Newswire: Legendary Civil Rights Icon C.T. Vivian dies at 95

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia


Rev. C. T. Vivian receiving medal from President Barack Obama


The Rev. C.T. Vivian, the legendary civil rights activist who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has died. Rev. Vivian was 95.
Vivian reportedly suffered a stroke earlier this year, but his family said he died of natural causes.
“He has always been one of the people who had the most insight, wisdom, integrity, and dedication,” said former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a contemporary of Vivian who also worked alongside King.
“The Reverend Dr. C.T. Vivian was one of my strongest mentors in the Civil Rights Movement,” National Newspaper Publishers Association President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., stated.
“Rev. Vivian, like Martin Luther King, Jr, and Joseph Lowery was a visionary theologian, genius, and a leading force in the tactical and strategic planning of effective nonviolent civil disobedience demonstrations. C.T. has passed the eternal baton to a new generation of civil rights agitators and organizers. ”
In a statement emailed to BlackPressUSA, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks expressed their condolences. “The Atlanta Hawks organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Civil Rights Movement leader, minister, and author, Dr. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian. The City of Atlanta and the entire world has lost a distinguished icon whose leadership pushed the United States to greater justice and racial equality for African Americans,” team officials wrote in the email.
“To inspire the next generation, Vivian founded the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute in Atlanta, with the intent to create a model of leadership culture in the city that would be dedicated to the development and sustainability of our communities.”
They continued: “Vivian also started Basic Diversity, one of the nation’s first diversity consulting firms, now led by his son, Al, who has been a great partner to our organization. We are grateful for Dr. Vivian’s many years of devotion to Atlanta and thankful that we had the opportunity to honor and share his legacy with our fans. The entire Hawks organization extends its most sincere condolences to the grieving family.”
Rev. Vivan was active in sit-in protests in Peoria, Illinois, in the 1940s, and met King during the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott — a demonstration spurred by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white rider. The 13-month mass protest drew international attention.
Rev. Vivian went on to become an active early member of the group that eventually became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, according to his biography. Like King, Vivian was committed to the belief that nonviolent protests could carry the day.
“Some thoughts on the Reverend C.T. Vivian, a pioneer who pulled America closer to our founding ideals and a friend I will miss greatly,” Former President Barack Obama wrote in a statement. “We’ve lost a founder of modern America, a pioneer who shrunk the gap between reality and our constitutional ideals of equality and freedom.”
Rev. Vivian was born in Boonville, Missouri, on July 30, 1924. He and his late wife, Octavia Geans Vivian, had six children.
With the help of his church, he enrolled in American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville in 1955. That same year he and other ministers founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Council, an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, according to the National Visionary Leadership Project. The group helped organize the city’s first sit-ins and civil rights march.
By 1965 Rev. Vivian had become the director of national affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference when he led a group of people to register to vote in Selma, Alabama.
CNN memorialized Rev. Vivian, noting that, as the county Sheriff Jim Clark blocked the group, Vivian said in a fiery tone, “We will register to vote because as citizens of the United States we have the right to do it.”
Clark responded by beating Vivian until blood dripped off his chin in front of rolling cameras. The images helped galvanize more comprehensive support for change.
Vivian also created a college readiness program to help “take care of the kids that were kicked out of school simply because they protested racism.”
“I admired him from and before I became a senator and got to know him as a source of wisdom, advice, and strength on my first presidential campaign,” Obama stated.
“I’m only here to thank C.T. Vivian and all the heroes of the Civil Rights generation. Because of them, the idea of just, fair, inclusive, and generous America came closer into focus. The trails they blazed gave today’s generation of activists and marchers a road map to tag in and finish the journey.”

Emmett Till’s accuser admits it was all a lie

emmett-till

By Stacy M. Brown (The Washington Informer/NNPA Member)

More than six decades after the horrific, racially-motivated murder of Emmett Till, the White woman who accused the Chicago teenager of verbally and physically accosting her in Money, Miss., in 1955, has admitted she lied, according to a new book.

Till had allegedly whistled at and groped Carolyn Bryant, a 21-year-old White woman, while at a country store in the small town.

After the encounter, Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband, and J.W. Milam tracked young Emmett down, kidnapped him, tortured him, shot him, and then tied his battered body to a cotton gin fan using barbed wire and dumped him in the muddy Tallahatchie River. Later, the two men were acquitted of the murder by an all-White, all-male jury after an hour’s deliberation. Till’s brutal killing and photos of his open casket at his funeral helped spark the Civil Rights Movement.

During the trial, Carolyn Bryant testified that Emmett, who was 14, had made physical and verbal advances toward her, a sensational claim that increased tensions surrounding the case. She testified that Emmett had grabbed and threatened her inside the store – and that he had used an “unprintable” word when he told her he had been intimate “with White women before.”

But according to a 2007 interview, newly revealed in the book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” Carolyn Bryant admits that it never happened.

“That part’s not true,” she told writer Timothy Tyson, according to “Vanity Fair,” though she claimed she could not recall what happened the rest of the evening at her husband’s country store, where Emmett stopped by briefly on Aug. 24, 1955, to buy two cents worth of gum.

Till was shot in the head and was found with barbed wire wrapped around his neck; one of his eyes was gouged out. “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” she is quoted as saying. Bryant’s testimony was out of the earshot of the jury, but helped to frame the case publicly.

“I was just scared to death,” she said in court. The two killers later admitted their guilt, after their acquittals.

Emmett Till’s murder became the flashpoint in the American Civil Rights Movement. Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmett’s mother, had even insisted on an open casket at his funeral, leading to photographs of his battered corpse being spread across the country, which helped focus public attention on what was happening in the heart of the country.

In 2004, the FBI reopened the case to see if any accomplices could be hauled to court, but a grand jury decided three years later that there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges.

The young Carolyn Bryant went into hiding after the murder trial — divorcing and marrying twice more — and remained mum on the case until she gave the interview with Tyson, the “New York Post” reported.

Bryant is now known as Carolyn Bryant Donham. Donham told Tyson that she “felt tender sorrow” for Emmett’s mother, who died in 2003, but Tyson doesn’t mention if Donham expressed guilt or apologized.

Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks has said she thought about Emmett when she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., a few months after his death.

The shocking crime was memorialized in the arts and literature; in Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s play “Dreaming Emmett,” a Langston Hughes poem, and a song by Bob Dylan.

The whereabouts of the now-82-year-old Donham are unknown.

The Washington Informer is a member publication of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Learn more about becoming a member at http://www.nnpa.org.