Friday, February 17, 2012

The Urban Beat: Patricia Stephens Due

A problem with the "great man" view of history is that it not only elides the fact that there were also "great women" but more importantly it overlooks that fact that social movements are indeed just that. They are made up of numerous people (men and women) who made contributions, both big and small. Many of these people don't get into the history books but were it not for their collective actions, the man or woman in the media spotlight wouldn't have the ability to make the changes they did.

One such woman who just passed away who may have not gotten the recognition from us all while she was here was one Patricia Stephens Due, a leading civil rights activist, author and mother of author Tananarive Due and mother-in-law of author Steve Barnes.
Read more about her incredible life here.

Patricia Stephens Due, whose belief that, as she put it, “ordinary people can do extraordinary things” propelled her to leadership in the civil rights movement — but at a price, including 49 days in a stark Florida jail — died on Tuesday in Smyrna, Ga. She was 72.
At 13, Patricia Stephens challenged Jim Crow orthodoxy by trying to use the “whites only” window at a Dairy Queen. As a college student, she led demonstrations to integrate lunch counters, theaters and swimming pools and was repeatedly arrested.
As a young mother, she pushed two children in a stroller while campaigning for the rights of poor people. As a veteran of integration and voting rights battles, she went on to fight for economic rights, once obstructing a garbage truck in support of striking workers. As an elder stateswoman of the movement, she wrote a memoir to honor “unsung foot soldiers.”
She fought beside John D. Due Jr., a civil rights lawyer, whom she married in 1963. For their honeymoon, they rode the Freedom Train to Washington to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Mrs. Due paid a price for this devotion. She wore large, dark glasses day and night because her eyes were damaged when a hissing tear gas canister hit her in the face...

I thank Mrs. Due and all the men and women of generations before and after her that kept up the good fight, even when things looked their bleakest.
1) Had you heard of Patricia Stephens Due before?
2) Are we collectively doing a good job of capturing the stories of the older civil rights generation and giving them the respect they deserve? 
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