"It's the cracked ones

who let in the light..."

 

IN SEARCH OF OUTSIDERS...

 

 

 

   

     So said the Rev. William Sloan Coffin, former chaplain of Yale and Senior Minister of New York City’s Riverside Church---someone who knew from experience.  He was labeled not only “cracked” but also dangerous by his critics, Coffin was outspoken, zealous and impatient for the cause of social justice.

 

     He used his celebrity to call attention to the plight of outsiders, especially the poor, to question American political and military power, and to campaign for disarmament. Bill Coffin understood the people I write about:  the ones who never let troubled lives, poverty, poor emotional or physical health, or the opinions of others deter them from speaking out, demonstrating and pushing hard against abuses of power.  They were dedicated and determined foot soldiers, and most have been forgotten.

 

      They include a white Detroit housewife (From Selma To Sorrow), a white mailman from Binghamton, New York (Freedom Walk) and a white Alabama librarian (Journey Toward Justice) whose common denominator was a sense of moral outrage over the treatment of outsiders. Viola Liuzzo, the housewife, was murdered during the 1965 Voting Rights March; Bill Moore, the mailman, was shot to death on a freedom march to Jackson, Mississippi when it was discovered that he was an atheist, and Juliette Hampton Morgan committed suicide after her editorials opposing segregation caused her to lose her job and to be shunned by friends, neighbors, colleagues and former students.

 

     For two decades I have mined archives and personal letters and papers to locate outsiders like these and to acknowledge their contributions at the local level. They paid high personal costs for simply speaking out. We owe them a collective debt, these “cracked ones,” for sending so many shafts of light into the darkness.

 

 

 

 

  - Mary Stanton

 

From Selma To Sorrow: The Life & Death of Viola Liuzzo, University of Georgia Press (1998) Second printing, 2014.  Nominated for Pulitzer Prize, 1999.  Loyola University Award for the Study of Communication, Language & Gender, 1998.

 

Journey Toward Justice: Juliette Hampton Morgan and the Montgomery Bus Boycott,

University of Georgia Press (2006). American Association of University Professors Outstanding Title for Understanding Race Relations in America, 2007.

 

Freedom Walk: Mississippi or Bust, University Press of Mississippi (2003).

 

Hand of Esau: Montgomery’s Jewish Community and the 1955/56 Bus Boycott,

River City Publishing, Montgomery, Alabama (2006). National Best Book (Religion/Judaism), USA Book News, 2007.

 

 

 

 

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