Harvey Library Interim Director Frank Edgcombe vividly remembers his participation in the Civil Rights Movement, surrounding the works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As the University prepares to celebrate King's birthday and legacy, the Student Connection talked to Edgcombe about his experiences throughout the civil rights movement, and what he wants young people to gain from history.
Q: How were you involved in the civil rights?
A: I participated in the March on Washington in August 1963 as a member of a group from my church in New York. I served as a student worker in the civil rights drives in Mississippi in January 1965. I served as a member of Congress of Federated Organizations (COFO), which was an umbrella organization of all civil rights organizations, in McComb, Miss. and Hattiesburg, Miss. We worked on voter registration, primarily, and desegregation of facilities, such as restaurants and civic buildings.
Q: What do you remember most about the spirit of the
A: There was a wonderful spirit among the African American population (who were in a state of real fear) and the civil rights workers. There was real hatred from most of the white population, who at times were violent.
Q: Why did you decide to become involved in civil
A: Mainly through participation in a church that thought civil rights work was terribly important, and because as a recent immigrant, I had benefits that some citizens did not have.
Q: Were you involved in the Freedom Marches? If so why did
A: Yes. I felt everyone should have the same opportunities and rights as I had. Everybody should have the same opportunities in education, housing, employment, voting, etc. as I have been afforded.
Q: As a former civil rights worker in Mississippi, what are
some sacrifices you made?
A: I had to be vigilant and expect violence to be perpetrated against me, and others. Three civil rights workers had been killed nearby. The suspects in the murders included local sheriff deputies. Many homes and churches were firebombed in the towns in which I worked. Living conditions were very basic.
Q: How did you react when Martin Luther King Jr. was
A: With horror.
Q: What do you want the youth of this generation to remember
most about your involvement with civil rights?
A: I want them to remember that freedom is gained and maintained by participation. Racism is still prevalent and students must try to affect a reduction in racism. We are not fully free and work needs to continue to create opportunity for all. Lack of participation will eventually erode all the gains in freedom that we have gained.
Brianna Dance '14