Proud to remember history

Published 1:24 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2016

So I participated in the march.

I’m talking, of course, about the one a few weeks ago to commemorate the historic Voting Rights March of 1965 to the Lunenburg Courthouse.

My wife and I were among the more than 400 people who braved a day the National Weather Service warned might feel like it was 105 degrees to walk the approximately 4-mile trek from Victoria’s First Baptist Church to the Lunenburg County Courthouse, and then to nearby Tussekiah Baptist Church.

Some bothered by the heat and humidity had to give up the walk and catch a ride on one of the accompanying vehicles. A few people needed to be looked at by members of the rescue squad.

But we made it, and I was glad to be there.

Maybe it was the historian in me. That was my major at North Carolina A&T State University. I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do with a degree in history, but I knew I wanted one.

History is the foundation of life. It is what our every decision becomes and where we all end up.

Originally, about 300 demonstrators — many children — marched to the courthouse on Aug. 3, 1965, in support of the impending passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act — which was signed into law Aug. 6 — and to protest the existence of the Poll Tax.

The march also intended to protest inadequate voter registration hours, but on July 31, just days earlier, the county’s electoral board decided to grant adequate hours for voter registration. In turn, grateful demonstrators marched to express appreciation to the board for its decision.

The re-enactment was to recognize and remind what had been done before and those who had done it.

Yes, I was working; but I also just wanted to be able to say I had been there.

Mostly because I think we have a tendency to associate hard-won civil rights as being done somewhere else by someone else.

We all know Martin Luther King Jr. Why not Nathaniel Lee Hawthorne Sr.? Hawthorne led the civil rights fight in Lunenburg. The men may have fought on different levels and in different settings, but it was the same battle and they faced the same dangers.

A resolution will be placed in the courthouse acknowledging Hawthorne as “a courageous leader (who) never yielded in his fight for equality, dignity, and freedom for all residents of Southside Virginia.”

And that’s what we really need to remember. The rights that were won were won in battles fought here. And if they are to be kept they will be kept by maintaining the fight here.

That’s always a good thing to remember, and to remind others.

Jamie Ruff is a staff reporter for The Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch. His email is