Eyewitness Accounts from people of the ‘freedom fighters’ movement.                    Excerpts from an interview conducted by Dr. Dianne Turner of the Charles Blockson Library at Temple University.

After the riots in 1964 Kenneth Salaam a.k.a. Freedom Smitty   

I was conscious of what was going on in America in 1963, when they killed Medgar Evers in June 1963.  That’s when, I remember going downtown and walking around City Hall.  I guess, like they say you don’t choose it, but your history chooses you…I got involved with the NAACP and in early 65’ the discussion started happening about Girard College.  The original plan was just a small group of us…no public announcement.  On the morning of May 1, 1965 about 6 ‘o clock, there I learned there was so many police covering the whole wall-it was amazing!  That’s when I first learned about snitches…because we made no public announcement.

On Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & Cecil B. Moore…Mel Dorn

A lot of folks thought there’ll be a problem between Cecil Moore and Martin Luther King, Cecil was more arrogant and direct, while King was more laid back.  Then the people saw them on stage together-it was no big thing, a very inspiring moment.  I think Dr. King helped me to understand that the movement and the cause is much more important than my individual thing…you have to understand the pulse of the people if you have to be a servant of the people.  Dr. Martin Luther King visit to Philadelphia put a stamp on our movement, because he was nationally known, so he inspired everyone to keep on the picket line.  I was in the Philadelphia office when he (Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) was assassinated (Mel Dorn was also a pallbearer for Martin Luther King Jr.).

Cecil b. Moore was a giant among men.  He was so humble in dealing with people.  If you didn’t have any money-you know how it is…money make you: money break you.  People who do not have it feel inferior a lot of times.  But when you talked to Cecil and you walk into his office, you got a problem with police brutality, rape or anything…There was no community services then.  He would represent them and they would say, ‘Mr. Moore I don’t have any money,’ he would reply, ‘did I ask for any money?’

Artistic Interpretation of the Movement…Richard Watson    

My experience with career-oriented art began formally when I was around 13 years old.  I had a passion for art and pursued art as a distraction.  I wasn’t a fighter, but I had a way of orchestrating myself through the turmoil of all the street gang.  I had a persona, that people recognized and sort of respected as being, ‘that strange guy, who draws.’  The territories of North Philadelphia at that time was so divided among these little group gangs.  I was very concerned about the disparity of communities…

The North Philly Riot…so when the riot happened, it was another burst of excitement, looting, glass breaking burglar alarms going off, fires, shops being robbed.  I don’t think people had any political motivation; they were just caught up in the wellspring of that crowd, mob mentality.

Web contents, articles and photos by Miranda Alexander


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