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Compelling experience of civil rights is understood by retired Judge Len Edwards

Retired Santa Clara County Judge Len Edwards understands what the civil rights movement was all about by experience.
Retired Santa Clara County Judge Len Edwards understands what the civil rights movement was all about by experience.

When most talk about the civil rights struggle is articulated by people today, most have no real understanding what the climate was like. You just cannot compare the experience to any other.

Other movements are superficially compared to the institutionalized racism that became part of the nation’s social structure, however unless you were black one could not comprehend the animosity that existed. One could easily be killed just by associating with blacks.

Retired Judge Len Edwards of Santa Clara County Superior Court did what was unthinkable for a young white man who grew up in California and entering his first year of law school during the summer of 1964 at the University of Chicago Law School. Edwards would go into the heart of segregation in Mississippi to assist in registering blacks to vote.

The effort was nothing like the risk as that by people working for causes today, or the last 20-years. Those comparing the civil rights dangers of 1964 to the civil struggles of today have no clue what they are talking about.

It was on June 21st, 1964 when three civil rights workers in Mississippi, local James Chaney and two young Jewish men from New York in Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan doing the very thing Edwards was going to do. It has been 50-years to the day yesterday when the case that grabbed national and international attention took place.'_murders

The domestic terrorism of the Klan hung over the very heads of brave activists as Edwards who put aside real fear and intimidation to do the dangerous work of registering blacks to vote. Those courageous individuals as Edwards did not do this from afar, they went to the “Negro” sections of small rural towns in Mississippi and lived with host black community people.

What this basically meant was those as Edwards became easy targets of the local Klan for frivolous arrests, firebombs, death threats, and being followed daily by the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Nothing like this ever accompanied civil causes of the 21st century.

There are many brave white Americans that set aside their personal time to go into the deep South and work the communities by going door to door to register blacks to vote. Many blacks fearful of Klan retribution would refuse, but many encouraged by the presence of people outside their race stepped out and registered to vote.

The effort to build trust extended to the black churches as Edwards and his fellow workers would encourage those in attendance to join the struggle against segregation and to get out and register to vote. This grass roots effort paid big dividends and accomplished what decades of segregation had put into place.

Many in the black communities had not been exposed to that many compassionate people outside their race. It was no small task those as Edwards accomplished by demonstrating there were those that truly cared about civil rights and would put their lives at risk for them.

The Bible lauds the fact that greater love has no man that he would lay down his life for another. This is exactly what those as Edwards showed when going door to door to register blacks to vote black could have been cost them grave injury or death.

It was a shining moment during a dark chapter in American history.

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