April has many sides. It is a month when Spring starts getting its momentum. It is a month of school holidays and family vacations. It is a month of renewal. It is a month of tax deadlines. It is a month of cherry blossoms, buds on trees, and the sweet scent of honeysuckle. It is a month of weddings and anniversaries. It is also a month of remembrance.
The month of April has witnessed the deaths or assassinations of many important people, particularly people who were instrumental in the field of civil rights. Some people are very well known for their work and contributions in the field of civil rights. Others were active, courageous, and committed but are unfamiliar and unknown. They are the unsung heroes in the civil rights movement. And they should not be forgotten in history.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Work: Killed on eve of supporting a strike by the African American sanitation workers.
Dr. King needs no introduction. But he definitely deserves our remembrance this month. He was a (or the) leader in the civil rights movement. Many people do not realize, though, that he was a philosopher and writer. His speeches are legendary but his books take the issues to a new level of deep. One of his best, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Should be on everyone’s best seller list. For a shorter and very moving summary of his philosophy, read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. He was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964.
Yes, he was a leader of the African American community but his vision and work led him to become a world figure. Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968. He will always be remembered.
President Abraham Lincoln
Killed following his work to abolish slavery through the passage of the 13th Amendment.
Here is another person who needs no introduction yet many people do not really know or understand this complex man. President Lincoln assumed the office during a turbulent and difficult time in the United States, when the country was divided over many issues, particularly slavery.
President Lincoln was not always opposed to slavery (particularly in his early years), and he had considered that slavery could be extended if it would keep the country unified. However, he later became strongly abolitionist and was determined to that the “peculiar institution of slavery” would be forever abolished in the United States—while keeping the country together.
He was a philosophical and deep-feeling man who charmed everyone that he met. Abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison often conflicted with his views and approaches, yet they also deeply respected him. He lived to see the abolition of slavery, the end of the U.S. Civil War, and the passage of the 13th Amendment. President Lincoln was killed on April 15, 1865.
Unsung Heroes of the Movement!
President Lincoln and Dr. King are two of the prominent, respected, and well-known people who were assassinated in April of the past. Another noteworthy person who died in April was President Franklin D. Roosevelt though he died of a stroke in 1945. Of course, the country also mourned his passing and, while he did not work directly in the field of civil rights, he took innovative steps to assist the African American community and impoverished people through his works programs.
The following three people were active in the civil rights movement, primarily in small but very important roles. They were killed for their contributions. Yet their killings have not been documented (or punished) in the annals of history. They were not famous or wealthy or prominent. But they were brave and committed and determined to fight for their belief in equality and justice. Here are three stories.
Captain Roman Ducksworth, Jr.
Work: Freedom Fighter who protested against segregation.
Captain Ducksworth was a military officer with leave to go home to see his wife who was expecting the birth of their sixth child. On April 9, 1962, he was riding a bus he was taking a bus through Mississippi when a police officer, William Kelly, awoke Captain Ducksworth by punching him in the face. The officer then dragged him off the bus at gunpoint and shot him through the heart. Captain Ducksworth had participated in freedom rides to protest against segregation in Mississippi. Officer Kelly’s actions were ruled as a justifiable homicide; no charges were filed.
Wiliam Lewis Moore
Work: Postal worker who held lone-man marches to deliver letters against intolerance to state state governors.
William Moore was a postman from Baltimore, Maryland. He was participating in his 3rd one-man freedom march against segregation. Known to wear a sandwich board stating, “Equal Rights for All,” he was a member of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE).
His first march was to Annapolis, Maryland; his second march to the White House to deliver a letter to President Kennedy. His third march was to Jackson, Mississippi to deliver a letter to Governor Ross Barnett, urging an end to racial segregation. On April 23, 1963, Moore was shot and killed during this final march to deliver the letter. He had been shot twice in the head a point-blank range. No charges were ever filed against anyone.
His letter stated, “The white man cannot truly be free until all men have their rights.” It was never delivered.
Rev. Bruce Klunder
Work: Protested against segregation and racial inequality.
Rev. Klunder was a Presbyterian minister and civil rights activist. He was head of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) office in Cleveland, Ohio. He regularly picketed and protested against unfair housing conditions, discriminatory hiring practices, and segregated schools and facilities.
On April 7, 1964, Reverend Klunder was protesting with other civil rights activists against the construction of a segregated school. The protesters placed their bodies in the path of the construction equipment to halt construction. Rev. Klunder was crushed to death when a bulldozer backed over him. More than 1,500 attended his funeral. No charges were ever filed. His death divided Cleveland for many years.
More to remember!
There are many more people who could be mentioned in this section. They were people who worked to register African American voters, protested against segregated schools and restaurants, or worked to promote racial equality and justice—and risked their lives to do so. Some were young and naïve. Others were older and experienced. All were committed to work for civil rights.
April is a good month to remember their contributions.