Saturday, June 6, 2015

Summer Vacation Post Card

Like many folks in the South in the 1970s, my grandpa Green had a picture of Martin Luther King on his living room wall. His actually had been there for several more years than those that were sold after the 1968 murder in Memphis.

I have often thought about the photo and just recently came across it in a box that contained old letters, rental house journals and other papers. When he died in 1973 I guess my Dad packed them all up and they stayed out of sight until my sister found them a couple years ago.

This week as I was reading the old letters I found the photo. It supposedly was taken in 1957 and shows MLK sitting next to several men who were supposed to be members of the Communist Party in America,

The post card was produced by the "American Opinion" organization in Belmont, Massachusetts. It is known today as the John Birch Society.

I'm not sure how my grandpa got it because as far as I know there wasn't a local branch of the John Birch Society in Perry, Florida. He read the news and undoubtedly saw it advertised somewhere and sent off  for it, or one of his friends gave it to him.

Looking at this card today and especially considering he had it up on his wall for five years after King was murdered it would be easy to criticize him. When you consider he was born 15 years after the end of the Civil War and both his parents lost family members in the war, I can at least understand how he came to have such deep opinions about integration. I have other family members who feel the same way and don't have an excuse for it.

Abner W. Berry was born in Texas and died in June 1987 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina at the age of 85, after suffering a stroke. He had been a community organizer for the Communist party in Harlem in 1934.

Aubrey W. Williams was born in Alabama and died on March 15, 1965 of stomach cancer, in Washington, DC. He had worked for the WPA during the New Deal and later became head of the Southern Conference Education Fund. In the 1950s he became a target of the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security investigating Communist Party membership.

Myles Horton was born in Savannah, Tennessee and died in January 19, 1990 at the age of 84. He founded the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee in 1932. The post card calls it a Training School for Communist.

The school did serve as a training ground in a way. Rosa Parks visited it shortly before her decision to refuse to give up her seat on the bus. She credited the school for giving her courage. The school was integrated which was illegal when it was started in Tennessee.

Horton was also investigated by the Senate for Communist Party affiliation and denied being a member. One of his friends, a communist organizer, testified before the Senate that Horton was not a member but agreed to have a communist party member work at the school to recruit the students for membership. The school was shut down in February 1960 by the Tennessee Supreme Court based on the fact that integrated classes were still a violation of State law.

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