Doubting MLK During a Strike in Memphis

By Conor Friedersdorf

Gibson “Nibs” Stroupe is a recently retired pastor who spent decades presiding over the proudly multicultural Oakhurst Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Georgia. He traces his ministry and the ideas that informed it back to 1968, and shared his experiences with me after learning of The Atlantic’s exploration of that year.

He wrote:

I was a senior at what was then Southwestern Presbyterian University, and what is now Rhodes College, during the Memphis garbage-workers strike of 1968. I joined other students who were part of that strike. It was part of an ongoing shift in my consciousness from a white person raised in the segregated South to a white person who gradually began to see how captive I was to the power of race.

I had been taught racism by my family, my church, and my teachers––by really decent white people in my hometown on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River Delta. I believed that white people were superior, and that black people would never be our peers or equals. If at times my experience seemed to teach otherwise, I was like Thomas Jefferson in his “Notes on Virginia.” Though he agonized over the ideas of equality and slavery, he indicated that he could not find evidence of the equality of people of African heritage.

Education was one of my paths out of this total captivity to race.  Though most of my public-school teachers were believers in race, one of my English teachers, a Jewish woman in our small Arkansas town, suggested that I read Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country about apartheid in South Africa. I read it, and in it I met my first black person. Oh yes, I had seen many black people in my youth, but I had not considered any of them to be a person as I …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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