(Via Marsha Joyner.)
Ted Poston, "They Are No Longer Afraid." The New York Post
June 19, 1956.
You'd been living with [the bus boycott] daily for nearly three weeks in Montgomery, but you couldn't quite put your finger on it. Only through the words of others were you finally able to articulate a feeling, which had been with you from the beginning.
Mrs. Jo Ann Robinson, dynamic president of the Women's Political Council, had been one of the first to pinpoint it for you.
"Pass the lowliest, the most ignorant one, on the street and you'll see it," she said. "He walks a little straighter, his head is a little higher... They no longer lack courage; they're no longer afraid. They're free for the first time in their lives and they know they've won their own freedom. This goes not only for the lowest domestic but for the highest Negro professional also."
J. E. Pierce, Alabama-born economist whom you'd known a decade ago in your native Kentucky, expanded it:
"What you're seeing here is probably the closest approach to a classless society that has ever been created in any community in America. The whites have forced the Montgomery Negro to recognize one thing—that they are Negroes first and then domestics, doctors' wives, scholars or lawyers second.
"But for the first time the Negro is accepting with pride, not shame, the fact that all Negroes look alike to white people. Through their unity, their car pools, their determination to share and share alike, they have found each other—as Negroes... Walk a little straighter... head a little higher.
"This new dignity is not accidental. And it is no accident that they call each other 'ladies' and 'gentlemen' on every possible occasion. For the first time in their lives they feel like ladies and gentlemen from the bottom to the top."
Copyright © 1956 The New York Post. Selected from the Library of America anthology. See Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism 1941-1963.