Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Voices of people are what brought change

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Jan. 31, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 30, 2013 at 7:31 p.m.

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s brought important changes to America. From Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Ala., to Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, the culture of our nation shifted toward freedom and equal rights for all.

There were many leaders in this movement. The national leaders, such as King and Malcolm X, are widely known, but every community also had leaders who took a stand in their hometowns. These people saw injustices and inequality in their daily lives and made the decision to face it and demand change, no matter how it would affect their personal lives.

One of those leaders was Sandra "Casey" Hayden, a young woman who grew up in Victoria during the days of segregation. At first, Hayden thought segregation was an area tradition. When she discovered it was required by law, she chose to act against the injustice she saw around her.

Although Hayden moved away from Victoria after graduating from college in 1955 and spending two years at Victoria College, her experiences growing up in a town inundated with segregation left its mark, and she took that passion to change the norm with her. She took part in conferences nationwide and was one of only a few white people who were working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Hayden's story of commitment and passion for change and equality reminds us of one important principle often forgotten when people look back at the civil rights movement. There were many great leaders who gave the movement focus, but those leaders would have been nothing more than voices on street corners without the hundreds and thousands of people who had the courage to act. The civil rights movement was not solely the work of people like King or even Hayden. It was the stand taken by every mother, father, husband, wife and child who chose to put their jobs, homes, freedom and even their lives on the line in pursuit of equal rights from the water fountain to the school house and into the voting booth.

We applaud all those people, from King and Hayden all the way down to the smallest child, who made the decision to fight for what our Constitution declares is their God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Your courage and determination paved the way for future generations to move forward with strength and security. While there may still be more that needs to be done, thank you for pushing America in the right direction. We hope we are worthy of the legacy you have left in our hands.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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