Sunday, October 10, 1999

Civil rights activists reunite


Memories stirred at Stowe House

BY MARIE McCAIN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Strands of gray have diffused their hair and their backs bend slightly with age. But their hearts still burn with fires ignited by the cause of civil rights.

        More than 50 people gathered inside the Harriet Beecher Stowe House on Gilbert Avenue Saturday for a reunion of Cincinnati civil rights activists who participated in local marches, sit-ins and picket lines protesting discrimination and segregation during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

        Elizabeth Jordan, 72, of Avondale spread out a large scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings. She pointed to a yellowed image. “See, that was me. Don't I look sharp?”

        Dated July 27, 1963, the picture showed a line of protesters holding large signs: “Love Thy Neighbor As You Love Yourself.” Standing second from the front, Mrs. Jordan stared straight ahead, a confident, defiant look on her face.

        In another room, Glenn and Ma rie Dixie of Atlanta reminisced with other onetime members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). “We came back specifically for this,” said Mrs. Dixie, 56. She was born and raised in Madisonville, her husband in Milford.

        “We haven't seen some of these people in 35 years,” said Mr. Dixie, 60, a computer analyst.

        During the early 1960s, the African-American couple would enter Norwood restaurants and cafeterias in the hopes of being served.

        Many times they were turned away. Often they watched in silence as the water glasses they had sipped from were slammed to the floor by a bigoted restaurant owner.

        “There were times when you just wanted to bring in a bunch of people and tear up the place,” Mr. Dixie said. “But we always remembered our nonviolent mission. It was difficult sometimes, but then there were times when you could see that you had gotten to someone and they understood.”

        David Frankhauser, 57, of Cler mont County was a Freedom Rider in 1961. Now a biology professor with the University of Cincinnati, he vividly remembered the bus trip he took from Montgomery, Ala., to Jackson, Miss.

        “A week earlier, a similar bus had been burned out. We had to be escorted by state police,” he said. “I stayed at (civil rights leader) Ralph Abernathy's house and I remember being ordered to stay away from the windows because if the police saw a white man in the house they would have grounds to search the place.”

        Marian Spencer, 79, of Avondale a former Cincinnati city councilwoman, also attended Saturday. During the 1950s she joined protests to open Coney Island to people of color.

        African-Americans have made great strides toward equality during the past 30 years, she said, but added there is still much to be done.

        “Now, it's a matter of how all of us achieve equity in our society. One group cannot have it without it being made available to another group. I think overall we all need to work toward better human relations, period,” Mrs. Spencer said.

       



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