Today's excerpt is from The Thunder of Angels and stars one E.D. Nixon, the prominent figure behind the Montgomery bus boycotts that acted as the lightning rod -- along with Brown V Board of Ed and many smaller, lesser known struggles with lesser-known figures -- for the Civil Rights struggle.
Stretching his long legs out from his lean body, Frank Minis Johnson, Jr., the federal district judge who first ruled, in 1956, on Alabama laws requiring segregation of races on public transportation, said, "To me, it was a matter of the US Constitution. I believed then, and I believe now: the local laws requiring segregation of races on any public conveyance were unconstitutional... The US Constitution is very clear on that."...[Virginia Durr, a large white woman with a large voice, came from the kitchen.] Her voice a bit screechy and loud, she said, "But Frank, if it was so clear, why did so many people interpret it so differently for so long?""Well, Virginia," Judge Johnson said, bending slightly to spit his tobacco. "They either chose not to read the text or to look in another direction. They didn't attack it straight on.""Nobody cared," E.D. Nixon growled in his guttural baritone."What'd you say, Mr. Nixon?" Virginia asked, plopping the salad onto the table."I said, 'Nobody cared.' They didn't want to care, until we made 'em. We pushed their face into the slop jar, and only then did they see that it was sour and rancid and ought to be emptied."Several people gazed questioningly into Nixon's face.In his old gravel-rumbling voice, he said, "Folks will take what's given to 'em, even if it's slop-jar food, until they have to face the fact that they're eatin' feces. When they become aware of that fact, they're alarmed -- even shocked. Andy when you tell 'em, 'If you don't throw it away and demand something good and nourishing and wholesome, you ain't ever gonna get it.' then -- sometimes -- they act. That's what happened to the black folks through the years. they'd been treated like dirt so long they got to thinking it was all right. You've got to feel the hurt deep down before you respond. You've got to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you don't, you'll turn around and run away from the struggle. But if you see the light and it gets brighter and brighter -- and you know that pretty soon you might come out in Jericho, or some place just as fine -- then you'll keep trudging toward that goal. All we ever did was open their eyes where they could see the light. Then we kept tellin' 'em over and over, it's right out there -- just over yonder hill. just keep on climbin' and pretty soon you'll get there."