This month’s Here’s To You is a nod to the team of people who made an old story new again for millions of us who need to hear it.
White Lies is a serialized podcast about the murder of James Reeb in 1965 in Selma, Alabama. More than that, it’s about what happens when an entire community “learns not to hear” the truth.
Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley host the NPR seven episode podcast and take us on their journey of finding out the truth of what happened to James Reeb, and why no one was held accountable for his death.
I found out about the podcast scrolling on Twitter. The tweet intrigued me. I share the same mixture of emotions about my home state of Alabama as the one who tweeted the podcast link.
A Dark History
I grew up in north Alabama. Both my parents did too. It’s home sweet home. But Alabama has a dark history.
On a warm day in 1977, Daddy drove from our town to another on Highway 31. Mom was in the front passenger seat, my sister and I in the back. Men dressed in white robes and pointed hats approached cars stopped at the traffic light. One of the men tried to give Daddy a pamphlet. Daddy was quiet and still and I was terrified. As soon as the light turned green, Daddy punched the gas.
Twelve years after the deaths of Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo, 160 miles or so from where they were murdered, lies of hate and superiority were passed around by members of the KKK in the middle of the day on a public highway.
We Need to Know
I wasn’t taught about the civil rights movement in my early school years, and we lived in Tennessee during my middle and high school years. Maybe I missed the civil rights movement lessons because I was in a Tennessee history class instead of an Alabama history class. I don’t know.
I do know I was an adult before I learned about the Freedom Riders and several other key events of the movement. I’m still learning and I’ll keep learning. From the stories people tell and the ones written down.
But the stories must be true. We must remember our stories well and honestly even when they threaten to tell us more than we want to know. Especially when they threaten to tell us more than we want to know.
Because we need to know.
Thank you White Lies team for seeking the truth and telling it in such a compelling way.