First Lady of the Movement
March 25, 1965 – Montgomery, AL
Rev. Abernathy and all the distinguished leaders of this nation and all of you wonderful Freedom Fighters, my brothers and sisters and my children – because I have been called the mother of this – you see before you now a victim of all that has been perpetrated against one to make us less than human. As a very small child, I had to hide from the Ku Klux Klan to keep from getting killed or thinking I was going to be killed. My family were deprived of the land that they owned and driven off it after they had worked and paid for it. I did not have the opportunity to attend school as many have and I am handicapped in every way, but I am expected to a first-class citizen. I want to be one. I have struggled hard during my early days. I will always be thankful for the NAACP for giving me some direction to try to channel my activities for a better way of life. I am also very thankful for Dr. Martin Luther King who came to Montgomery with his nonviolent, Christian attitude and loving your enemies. Of course, last few days in Selma, actually, I almost lost the faith. I almost didn’t come here today because so many people told me not to come here. And I said to myself, I could not come here, seeing what had happened in Selma, armed with only love. However, I came here with a hope and a faith, and you have given me back that faith today. Also, I want to say that, through the compliments of someone, we were given – showered – leaflets about the Communist school, that particular school where they accused Dr. King of being a student. He was not a student, but I was, and that particular school, Myles Horton, is responsible for me today not hating every white person I see. I learned at that time and at that place that there are decent people of every race and color. We are not in a struggle of black against white, but wrong and right, right against wrong. Thank you and many things I could say but I will not for lack of time because we must hear Dr. King, our leader.