Civil Rights History – StoryCorps
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A Pastor Who Was Once A Mischievous Child, Pays Tribute To “The People That Nurtured Me”

Growing up in the 1950s in Montgomery, AL., Rev. Farrell Duncombe or “Little Farrell,” as he was known by his family and friends, had a mischievous side. But he had many role models who kept him in line. One such person was his own father, Rev. Henry A. Duncombe Sr., who was the pastor of their church, St. Paul A.M.E. Church of Montgomery. 

It was at that church, where Farrell also drew inspiration from his Sunday school teacher, Miss Rosalie — eventually known to the rest of the world as Rosa Parks.

Later on, Farrell took all the lessons he’d learned growing up and went on to become a public school band teacher, and then a principal. He also stepped into his father’s shoes and became a pastor at his childhood church.

In 2010, Farrell came to StoryCorps with his friend and fraternity brother, Howard Robinson, to reflect on the people who nurtured him, and the humility he feels standing at his father’s pulpit. 

Rev Farrell Duncombe died on June 2, 2021 in Montgomery, Alabama.

Top Photo: Rev. Farrell Duncombe and Howard Robinson at their StoryCorps interview in Montgomery, AL on November 24, 2010. By Elizabeth Straight for StoryCorps.

Originally aired June 11, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Listen to Rev. Dumcombe’s story on the StoryCorps Podcast.

“He Did His Own Eulogy”: An Eyewitness Recalls Dr. King’s Final Speech

In 1968, more than 1,300 Black sanitation workers began to strike in Memphis, Tennessee, demanding better working conditions and fair wages. Clara Jean Ester, then a 19-year-old college junior, joined the protests in solidarity.

Photo: A young Clara Jean Ester, who graduated from Memphis State College, now known as the University of Memphis, in 1969. Courtesy of Clara Jean Ester.

When Clara wasn’t in school, every spare moment she had was spent on the picket lines or at the strike headquarters, Clayborn Temple. And later that year, Clara witnessed Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his final speech in Memphis. The next day, she was at the Lorraine Motel when Dr. King was assassinated. 

Clara, now 72, sat down for StoryCorps in Mobile, Alabama, to talk about bearing witness to Dr. King’s final days.

Top Photo: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place. From left to right, Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King, and Ralph Abernathy. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File).

Originally aired January 15, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

By the Power Vested in Me

On November 18, 2003, in the case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared that “…barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution.” This allowed same-sex couples to be legally married in the state of Massachusetts, the first state in the United States to do so.

In this episode of the StoryCorps podcast, we’ll hear from David Wilson, one of the plaintiffs in that landmark case, who was also one of the first to be married once the law went into effect on May 17th, 2004. He came to StoryCorps several years later to reflect on his difficult path to get to that day and what being part of that historic case meant to him.

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Next, we catch up with David and his husband, Robert Compton, as they get ready to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. We’ll also hear from a gay couple married 50 years before David and Rob.

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Top photo: Artwork by Michael Caines.
Second photo: David Wilson and his husband, Robert Compton, in 2019 at their StoryCorps interview in Palm Springs, California. Photo by Jud Esty-Kendall.
Third photo: Michael McConnell and his husband, Jack Baker, in 2017 at their StoryCorps interview in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Jhaleh Akhavan.

Released on May 14, 2019.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:

“Overture” by Patrick Wolf from the album Sundark and Riverlight
“Periodicals” and “City Limits” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Albany, NY
“Vittoro” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Aeronaut
“Elegiac” by Bryan Copeland

Remembering the Assassination of Civil Rights Leader Edwin Pratt

This is a story about an assassination of a Civil Rights leader you might not know about.

Throughout the 1960s, a man named Edwin Pratt was the head of the Seattle Urban League, where he rallied against discrimination in hiring, education, and housing.

 

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On a snowy night in 1969, three men carried out a hit on Pratt in his home, while his wife and five-year-old daughter Miriam were inside.

Miriam recently came to StoryCorps with her godmother Jean Soliz, who was her babysitter and neighbor at the time, to remember the aftermath.

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After 50 years, the investigation of Edwin Pratt’s murder remains unsolved.

Top photo: A family photo of Bettye, Miriam, and Edwin Pratt together in 1966. Courtesy Jean Soliz.
Middle photo: Miriam Pratt and Jean Soliz pose at their StoryCorps interview in Renton, WA on January 22, 2019. Photo by Dupe Oyebolu for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Jean Soliz and Miriam Pratt make the black power pose together, a few months after Edwin Pratt’s assassination in 1969. Courtesy Jean Soliz.

Originally aired March 22, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The Leesburg Stockade Girls, a Forgotten Moment in Civil Rights History

In July of 1963, a group of African American protesters were arrested during a series of non-violent, anti-segregation demonstrations in Americus, Georgia. More than a dozen girls, some as young as 12, were taken to the county jail before being transferred almost 30 miles away to the Lee County Stockade — a small cement building being used as a makeshift jail.

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And although the girls were never formally charged with a crime, they’d stay there for nearly two months without their parents’ knowledge. One guard watched over them in this run-down structure with barred windows, a broken toilet, and very little food.

The girls were released after nearly two months when Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) discovered their location and sent a photographer, who published photos of the living conditions at the stockade.

More than fifty years later, a few of the Leesburg girls, now women in their sixties, sat down for StoryCorps to shine a light on this overlooked moment in civil rights history.

Also Verna Hollis, who was pregnant while imprisoned at the stockade, sat down for StoryCorps with her now-adult son, Joseph Jones III.

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Top photo: (From left) Emmarene Kaigler-Streeter (who also recorded an interview with StoryCorps), Carol Barner-Seay, Shirley Green-Reese and Diane Bowens in 2016 outside the stockade building in Leesburg, Georgia where they were jailed as teenagers. By Alletta Cooper for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Young women are held in the Leesburg Stockade after being arrested for demonstrating in Americus, GA. They have no beds or sanitary facilities. From left to right: Melinda Jones Williams (13), Laura Ruff Saunders (13), Mattie Crittenden Reese, Pearl Brown, Carol Barner Seay (12), Annie Ragin Laster (14), Willie Smith Davis (15), Shirley Green (age 14, later Dr. Shirley Green-Reese), and Billie Jo Thornton Allen (13). Seated: Verna Hollis (15). Photo by Danny Lyon for Magnum Photos.
Bottom photo: Joseph Jones III with his mother, Verna Hollis, in Americus, Georgia after their StoryCorps recording in 2016. Verna Hollis died the following year. By Alletta Cooper for StoryCorps.
Originally aired January 18, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.