What is Selma Like? Beverly Pastor Tells Moving Story (1965)

By PAUL SILVERMAN, Reporter for the Beverly MA Times

Rev. Fred Lipp was ordained as the seventeenth Minister of the First Parish Church on 13 September, 1964, succeeding Harry Hoehler.  Lipp was a social activist, and introduced many community outreach programs through the Church.  In March 1965 he determined to represent our Church in voting rights demonstrations in Selma Alabama.  On March 9th, during the demonstrations a fellow Boston UU minister, James Reeb, was brutally beaten to death by white supremacists, polarizing the entire country and raising the specter of race war over equal rights.  Rev. Lipp promised to phone the Beverly Times to describe his experiences.  The undated article below, printed by the Times from one of those calls, is a fascinating reflection of the social norms of the 1960s.

 

The Rev. Frederick Lipp of Beverly’s First Parish Unitarian Church arrived in Selma. Alabama, on Sunday to participate in the voter registration drive. Since Rev. James J. Reeb of Boston died in Selma of a savage beating.it has been watched by the world.

Before leaving for approximately a week In Selma, Rev. Lipp said he would phone the Times office, when he could to relate his impressions of events in Alabama.

Massive March

Since the slaying of Rev. Reeb, the voting drive is striding towards success.  Dr. Martin Luther King yesterday was allowed by Selma authorities to lead a march on the Dallas County courthouse. The march, a protest against voting barriers and a commemoration of Rev. Reeb, was a breakthrough in the Selma Civil Rights campaign.  It encouraged Dr. King to declare today that he would expand the voter registration drive into four more rural communities.

According to Rev. Lipp, who phoned the Times office yesterday afternoon, the mood of Selma’s demonstrators, both Negro and White, is tranquil but determined, intensely affected by the murder of Rev, Reeb. Here is what he said:

Mood of Selma

“I’ve been here since Sunday afternoon.  We are all staying in a Negro housing project and the Southern hospitality is wonderful. Services are going on in Browns Chapel.  The Chapel is packed.  Children are parading and there is a UN flag at both ends of the street, which is called “the Stockade.”  For safety reasons we are not allowed to march outside this area.

“The Stockade is hounded by the so-called Selma Wall. a small barrier of wooden horses; on one side of which are 300 state troopers and, on the other, people praying and singing softly. We stay up through the night on shifts so that someone is at the wall at all times.

“We are provided food by the people in the housing projects.  Life in Selma is supported by the Projects backed up by donations coming in from all over the country.

“When demonstrating everyone clasps hands- Negro children, priests, rabbis, nuns and ministers.  The mood here is one of real spiritual concern, and the spirit is borne not of aggravation but worship, a spirit of deep respect for James Reeb, who died because of anger and injustice.  The participants consider Reeb a brother and therefore they wish to act out of love instead of anger.

Feeling of Guilt

“From what we have seen here we northern ministers cannot help feeling the guilt of our northern communities We of the north have failed to act creatively in housing, integration and total community life. Selma is another beginning for us, for the whole nation.

“Flights arrived today from Atlanta, Birmingham and Montgomery, churchman and layman alike, and Selma is filling up.

“Although coordinators try to arrange things, everything happens so rapidly that it is difficult to say what will be going on tomorrow morning.”

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