Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 by

In a message to Bob Zellner, author with Constance Curry of the 2009 Lillian Smith Award-winning The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement, Dr. Louis McLoud recalls his relevant personal history:

Thank you, Bob Zellner, for sending a signed copy of your book. I was wanting one for my children, so that they would understand who their people are. Those times of white and colored restaurants, bathrooms, and water fountains . . . It’s so foreign to them now. When I tell my nineteen-year-old son about my experiences growing up in segregated Alabama, he says, “That’s so stupid!” (He says that about the Iraq war, too.) 

During the summer of 1963, before my senior year in high school, I met an African-American Methodist minister from Tuskegee — Rev. J.C. Wilson was his name — who encouraged me to gather some white teens from Auburn to meet with some of the youth of his church, the Bowen United Methodist Church.  Auburn High School was segregated at the time, so my white friends and I met a number of times to plan our trip to Tuskegee, planning for Lingo’s troopers, etc. We encountered nothing like what you did in Montgomery, but did have our car tags run when we all got together at the Wesley Foundation at Auburn. 

A year or so later, in late 1964 or early 1965, at a meeting of the Alabama Council on Human Relations, I shared some of these experiences and impressions with Virginia Durr, the white civil rights activist who played such a crucial role in helping bring about change in Alabama. She asked why my friends and I had not met with the black youths in Auburn. She had a great point, to which my only answer was that we had to start somewhere. I do think that what our getting together did in some small way help pave the way for integrating the high schools after I left for college.

Separately, let me also mention that as a result of my contact with Rev. Wilson, I was asked to speak at the annual youth meeting of the Central Conference of the Methodist Church,  held in Birmingham in June 1964. It was held at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, which is located on the same block as the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. I traveled to Birmingham in the company of a friend. You can imagine our astonishment to see the bombed church. Tensions at that time still ran so high that the sight of two white boys in the black crowd outside the church occasioned a red pickup truck that was turning the corner to screech to a stop! You can understand when I say that we were somewhat scared. But clearly, Bob, you understand that change can be frightening sometimes.