Series: How I Became Involved In Civil Rights

Some months ago, FHCMD began a series of essays from individuals who described aspects of their involvement in the civil rights movement. We continue the series with essays from former board member William Deligannis and current board member John Obee, Esq.

Below are John Obee’s responses to my Selma article. I have enjoyed learning more about how he became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. John and I hope that our correspondence can contribute to conversations with each other when we are together in future times.

John Obee first became aware of my Selma article when Margaret sent it to him for comment. I wanted to know how several people responded to it before I saw it in print!

I hope our correspondence is interesting and useful to you.

Dr. David Snider

Here is John Obee’s latest email:

David: Absolutely you may send both of my emails, as I agree that it can open a discussion that is important. As to your questions about my growing up, I actually grew up in what Jim Loewen in his wonderful book “Sundown Towns” characterizes as a “Sundown” area, as I grew up in the Thumb of Michigan where there were no folks of any diversity other than white and Jim is convinced that that was not by accident. I had no contact with anyone African American at all until probably when I went to Mississippi in 1967. What inspired me: A book. I can trace the when and how of my “enlightenment” from a speech class that I had while I was in the Seminary. We had to do an expositive reading and I reached out to a friend of mine for something to read and he gave me the Fire Next Time. It is still one of the most powerful pieces of writing that I have ever read and it started me reading everything that I could about Civil Rights and the African American experience (some of which the priests in the seminary actually discouraged, actually confiscating books of mine until I figured out a way around them). How I wound up in Mississippi is an even longer story for another day, and in my more religious days, I used to say that it was “grace” at work. Today as with my fellow veteran, I say that I was truly lucky to have been an incredibly small part in the most important Movement that this country has ever witnessed. I hope to see you on Wednesday and look forward to continuing the dialogue which I am truly glad that you started. John

Click here to read the full article.