Kopkind, Selma — 50 years ago.

7 03 2015

An excerpt from the Prologue of Andy Kopkind’s “The Thirty Years’ Wars”.   Andy had just left Time Magazine  as a reporter and had become an editor of The New Republic in early 1965.  One of his  first assignments was to cover the activities going on in Selma.

“But when I worked for The New Republic — it’s hard to imagine now — this world of possibilities opened up. I could actually have some authenticity and integrity doing the work that I liked. Those were the two things — authenticity and integrity — that Time robbed you of. One of the first things that happened, about six weeks after I got to Washington, was the Selma march. I had never been to the South to report before, but I went off to Alabama and hung out at Brown’s Chapel Church and got to know all these people and all the SNCC workers, black and white. This world had opened up. They were saying exactly what I’d been thinking all these years but had never actually heard. I didn’t know that anybody was acting out these ideas, and it was great.

It wasn’t just about civil rights, not just about laws, but about power, and power to the people, power to the community. And they were analyzing the white power structure.

Anyway, I just thought these people were real heroes. The SNCC workers and the black workers from the counties; we would just go and hang out in the sharecroppers’ houses and in the little chapels, and this was so beautiful. I thought I was part of this tremendously exciting historic, romantic movement. And… I was. So I came back and I wrote the first piece sort of discovering SNCC for a national left-liberal audience.”

From the first piece in his “The Thirty Year’s War” book, the first paragraph of his piece “A Walk in Alabama” published in The New Republic, April 3, 1965.

“There are easier ways to get to Montgomery. The massed power of the army, the national guard, state troopers and the Justice Department does not lessen the sun’s glare or the force of thunderstorms. The pavement along the fifty miles of US 80 from Selma is just as hard on the feet, and the muddy campsites just as cold and disagreeable for all the complex battle plans of the marchers and their protectors. By Tuesday, when even the television cameramen began to lose interest, the march had been transformed from a carnival for 3000 into a crusade for 300. That night, a Presbyterian clergyman, one of the few whites left in the column — leaned against the clay-caked tailgate of a farm truck and picked at a cold pork chop. “This” he smiled, “is our finest hour.”


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