Veteran of the Civil Rights Movement

“We narrate stories to help us process our experiences.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement from the Polletta article. Often times I find myself telling a story, annd the simple act of recounting my experiences and explaining them to an external audience definitely helps in allowing me to come to a deeper and richer understanding of the occurrence. While the three elements of a narrative, as outlined by Ewick and Sibley, are great – they are also quite vague and what remains unclear to me is the value of a narrative post-social movement. The account of Hardy Frye, written in 2003 when he was a 64 year old man, reflects back on his experience during the civil rights era. While the narrative is in wriitten form, it reads as though he were speaking directly to you; substitute grammatical perfection for informal structures that portray the man’s character, background, and culture.

The story begins with Hardy being forced to join the NAACP as a 9 year old in elementary school. He talks of his hometown of tusgagee Alabama and sets the scene for what “The Movement” lookd like from the viewpoint of a young boy. This is what Polletta referred to as the “Becoming Aware” component. He talked of a rift in the civil rights movement that fell along class lines. Where black PhD’s looked down on uneducated blacks and the two circles never mixed despite their common struggle at a time of great social upheaval. He goes to the Army and then moves to L.A. where he pickets JFK’s nomination at the DNC. He then talks of doing sit-ins on Ca governor Pat Brown’s desk to get some fair housing bill passed: “we sat in for about a month on that damn marble floor up there in the rotunda.”

One of the most emotional moments of the narrative is Hardy’s account of a man who was shot in Mississippi during his time there around ’64. he writes “this white cop (there were no Black police at that time) told this cat to run, and they shot him! They shot him. They pulled out a gun and shot that boy in the leg. That happened.” Another moment that Polletta wouldrefer to as “becoming weary” Hardy writes “If you take and put them all down on a list, you can probably find the people easy who were the ones who sold out the biggest and ran away from the Movement. But Movement people are still doing it, still carrying the struggle and vision. So there must be something about this vision that we had that we are still interested in pursuing it. Only now we realize it ain’t going to happen in our lifetimes in most cases. ”

I believe one of the most poignant points made in the entire Polletta article is when she said “narratives put “forthpowerful and persuasive truth claims—claims about appropriatebehavior and values—that are shielded from testing or debate,”” Hardy’s account clearly demonstrates truth claims regarding how people who were once active members of the civil rights movement continue “the struggle” all these years after the movements end. “Fundamentally, we are still the visionaries. But the point we got to remember is what if we hadn’t done it… that’s the question we have to ask.”

Also: Here’s a cool annotated list of narratives from abolition/slavery era –

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