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"Days Gone By: II": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1980 (year approximate) to 1995 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. On Black history and Civil Rights Movement.

Digital ID



man001035. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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OCR transcription





Television isn't all bad. Nothing is, except, well, I'll leave that up to you. Movies are not all that bad either. There are many programs and films which provide us a glimpse of Americana. When television and movies join hands, we have a formidable force. This phenomena is manifested with movies that are shown on television. On a weekly basis, there is in excess of 500 movies shown on television. Even if only 1 OR of these are pertaining to American family life, they provide examples of a blueprint for life. When these are combined with current and syndicated programs such as "My Three Sons," "Father Knows Best," "That Girl," "Bewitched," "Brady Bunch," "Andy Griffith," "Beverly Hillbillies," "Happy Days," "Gidget," "Lucy," "Flipper," "Lassie" and all the others including "The Flintstones" we can see role models for white children ranging from the stone age to the future. The same is not true for black children and other racial groups. We must find out who we are and who we were before and who we might become by other means. Television and movies; individually or collectively, they are potent.
I know that there are a lot of us who remember what life was like before television. Even if I did not know it firsthand I would know it because Willard Scott has told and shown me. For the past several years, each morning, on NBC's morning news show, Scott introduces us to an ever growing number of octogenerians—people who are 100 years old or more. Back in the days before television, the comment we hear weekly on the TV about the opening of a new film; "Coming soon to a theater near you," had even less meaning. There are no theaters near us today and back in the old days they were even less near. Many of us lived in the country and those of us who lived in town lived on the other side of town well away from the movie theaters.
We were lucky. We didn't have those distractions and when they finally did appear near us or, in the case of television, when we got electricity and
were able to afford one of those newfangled TVs we had been nurtured a different way entirely. The conversations that we had during the slaughtering times were unusual only in the sheer numbers of people involved. We conversed with each other in daily family settings. Think back. On those occasions when the entire family would gather equal time was allowed each family member to contribute that which was important to them at that time. As a result, those conversations covered a variety of subjects and time peri ods.
The old ones, those around 100 years old or so, spoke of slavery time. Imagine, if you will, being a slave on a place with only two dreams; freedom and death. If the one doesn't come then the other would bring it. In that mental state, you could hear those aspirations in the songs; "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," "Lay This Body Down." You could hear it in the lamentations of the lyrics of the songs; "You delivered Daniel from the lion's den, saved Jonah from the belly of a whale, and the Hebrew children from the fiery furnace then, why not deliver poor me." And still they didn't give up.
Way off in the late 1850s they heard the rumors of the "impending crisis" and they were affected. In 1862 they heard, through the grapevine, about something called the "Emancipation Proclamation" which they thought would set them free. On New Year's eve of 1862, they waited up all night for the morrow—their freedom day—January 1, 1863. You should've seen that sunrise; such hues of gold and garnet. The cock crowed. The day was begun but before they could take their first breaths of freedom the work bell tolled and they were snapped out of their revelry and trudged to their tasks once again. Even though it was emancipation day, they were still slaves. Still they didn't give up.
The children of those formerly enslaved, in their 70s and 30s talked about the roller coaster aftermath of slavery. They were among the first,
generation-wide, to be exposed, even to a limited degree, to educational and political opportunities. The Freedman's Bureau schools provided the first and the Fifteenth Amendment provided the second by extending to them the right to vote. The Thirteenth Amendment of 1865 had finally, officially and legally, ended slavery and the Fourteenth Amendment of 1868 had extended citizenship to black people. The Fifteenth brought the right to vote to black men. It would be another half century before black women, along with other women, would be allowed to vote with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.
The next generation was a generation of tenant farmers and sharecroppers. Their condition was little better than slavery. In many ways they were bound to the land. They could not come and go as they saw fit and, according to some thinking, thanks to Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Compromise speech of 1895 delivered on the occasion of the Southern States Exposition where he said, in effect, that in matters of social and political equality the races should be as separate as the fingers but in matters of economic development they should be as the fist, literally gave away whatever rights blacks might have acquired as a result of the Civil War Amendments. Segregation became their daily bread, injustice their balm and fraud a salve rubbed into the wounds of their degradation. A song from another time and place fit their circumstances perfectly, "You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt." That is how they ended up year in and year out as tenant farmers and sharecroppers. Were they broken by that? Did they give up? You guessed it; no sir.
The next two went through the world wars. They fought to make the world safe for democracy only to find that that same democracy did not exist for them back at home. Certainly they were used. They were cannon fodder. They risked their lives and often gave their lives for their country and their country, in turn, gave them the back of the hand. They did not lose heart. They didn t
give up. They could havel They could've thrown in the towel but they loved their country even though their country didn't love them. They were not about to become like that which they despised.
Then there was the movement. The civil rights movement. What a time. I've never seen such bravery. Justice turned her back on us.and unleashed dogs, cattle prods, fire hoses, bull conners, wallace, barnett, faubus and all the rest. We were beaten, murdered, burned out, blown up, put in jail, harrassed, harrangued, and hemmed in. Sure we could have quite but we didn't. That was a generation which never contemplated defeat. It was a generation which knew, very well, that success comes to those stouthearted few who never lose sight of their goals.
We haven't lost that. We've just misplaced it. Let's find those qualities, dust them off and, as Arsenio says; "Let's get busy."