ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
I think youve got to hand it to CORE for spearheading this, pushing it, keeping it alive.
Walter was a really good friend of mine, I worked with him closely. He was really
Mr. Civil Rights, said Wickwire, who is also acknowledged as an important figure
in Marylands Civil Rights Movement by icons of that movement. In all my
relations with him, I have never had a color problem with him, said Dr. Marion Bascom,
Chester Wickwire Desegregating Gwynn Oak Amusement Park
By Sean Yoes, Afro Staff Writer
For years, Gwynn Oak Park, with its rustic wooden roller coaster, was a landmark of old Baltimore. But in July 1963, it became a national flashpoint of the Civil Rights Movement.
Gwynn Oak Amusement Park
Activists Braved Arrests, Hecklers to Integrate Amusement Park
Imagine a kid going into an amusement park. . . . It was a wonderful place for a Baltimore kid. But if you were a little Black kid, you couldnt experience it, and there was no reasonits just the way it was during those times, said Patricia Fish, a writer from Georgetown, Del., who wrote The Kaitlyn Mae Book Blog, which chronicles many of her childhood experiences growing up in Baltimore. It was the Baltimore of the early 1960s, when the Orioles and the Colts were the kings of Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street. And the great, white wooden roller coaster at Gwynn Oak Park, which opened in 1895, loomed large among the trees that engulfed the Gwynn Oak community of Northwest Baltimore.
Gwynn Oak Park, once a darling of Baltimore, the towns only city-based amusement park . . . I remember it so well, in that it was not only a place of endless hours of my childhood delight, it was also my first introduction to blatant bigotry, Fish writes. Fish, who grew up in the community of Morrell Park in Southwest Baltimore, attended St. Jeromes Parochial School. And according to her, the parochial schools rented out Gwynn Oak Park every year for a day. To a second-grader, a trip to Gwynn Oak Park with unlimited rides was paradise, writes Fish, but not all of her classmates were able to enjoy that day in paradise.
Tasha, Pierre and Jerold will be going to the Enchanted Forrest, I remember Sister Digna telling my second-grade class . . . I wondered even then just why Tasha, Pierre and Jerold couldnt go to Gwynn Oak with the rest of the class, writes Fish. She got the answer so many kids confused by the hypocrisy and inhumanity of Jim Crow got, and she got it from her father. Patricia, just as soon as you let the Colored in Gwynn Oak, the place will go downhill, explained Fishs father.
My father wasnt a bad man. He was just repeating what everybody else said. That was always the defense of the people who were opposed to integration, said Fish. In 1963, there were still many who were opposed to integration, and perhaps the last big symbol of segregated Baltimore was Gwynn Oak Park. Every year on the Fourth of July the park sponsored All Nations Day, which welcomed embassy staff from Washington, D.C., and people dressed in ethnic attire gathered and shared their native foods. But African nations and, of course, Black Americans were not invited to participate.
The first protest against the All Nations Day blackout happened in1955. About 40 people demonstrated with virtually no media coverage. But the demonstrations on All Nations Day became an annual event, as well as protesting segregation at Gwynn Oak, and eventually gained support. In 1962, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) asked embassies not to participate in the annual celebration, and they all agreed to withdraw. That same year, Walter Carter, the civil rights activist and leader of COREs Baltimore chapter, was assaulted and then arrested for trespassing while demonstrating at Gwynn Oak.
But by 1963 Carter would become one of the integral organizers of a massive demonstration at the park, and like the demonstrations at Northwood Shopping Center earlier that year, Gwynn Oak became the next big target of the Civil Rights Movement in Maryland. Another major force behind the All Nations Day demonstration in July 1963 was Chester Wickwire, at the time a lecturer of religion at Johns Hopkins University who happened to be White.
I think youve got to hand it to CORE for spearheading this, pushing it, keeping it alive. Walter was a really good friend of mine, I worked with him closely. He was really Mr. Civil Rights, said Wickwire, who is also acknowledged as an important figure in Marylands Civil Rights Movement by icons of that movement.
In all my relations with him, I have never had a color problem with him, said Dr. Marion Bascom, pastor emeritus of Douglas Memorial Community Church and a charter member of the notorious civil rights soldiers, The Goon Squad. Bascom and Wickwire were both arrested and jailed for demonstrating at Gwynn Oak in July 1963. He helped organize it [Gwynn Oak demonstration]. He helped raise money for bail. He went to jail, cane and all. He put his self on the line, added Bascom. At age 91, Wickwires spirit still becomes agitated when he perceives injustice. Unfortunately, this place isnt very integrated, said Wickwire, referring to the Baltimore County retirement community he and his wife of 68 years reside in. In fact, as he maneuvers his electric wheelchair (he was stricken with polio as a very young man) through the vast dining hall, the only Black faces visible are those of the wait staff.
But it seems that part of Wickwires mission since he came to this infamously segregated city from Colorado in 1953, has been to help integrate Baltimoreand he started with the campus of Johns Hopkins University. By 1958, he began a tutoring program in Baltimore jails using Hopkins students. In1959, the program included Baltimore City public school children. That same year, Wickwire organized Baltimores first integrated concert at the Fifth Regiment Armory. He would later bring artists like Charles Mingus, Odetta, Duke and Mercer Ellington, Joan Baez and the Mamas and the Papas to the Johns Hopkins campus.
This city did not enjoy a lot of cultural things, simply because of segregation, said Wickwire. In the summer of 1963, Carter and Wickwire, among other leaders, were making the final preparations for the All Nations Day demonstration just five months after the major victory at Northwood in February. In addition to CORE, the National Council of Churches, the Northern Student Movement, the Civic Interest Group, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and Morgan State College represented most of the major groups who participated. The Gwynn Oak demonstration actually took place during two days: July 4 and July 7 .By some estimates, as many as 800 people demonstrated against the segregated park on July 4, about 200 from New York alone.
Two hundred and eighty-three people, including Bascom and Wickwire, were arrested and hauled away in paddy wagons, while at least 1,000 virulent segregationists jeered. On July 7, about 300 protesters, mostly from Baltimore, demonstrated at the park, and about 100 additional arrests were made, including Michael Schwerner, who would be killed less than a year later in Mississippi (see box).
On the second day of the demonstrations, an even-larger crowd of counter-protesters gathered, creating an extremely volatile situation. Regardless of how many people were there, or how raucous they were, I think that most of us felt like we were doing the right thing, said Wickwire. The grainy black and white images of Black and White protesters, their limp bodies being hauled away as hundreds of counter-protesters heckled them, were transmitted all over the country. The fact that this was going onthe All Nations Day and the likeit was a shame on Baltimore that we were allowing this to happen, said Wickwire. Finally, on Aug. 28, 1963, the same day as the historic March on Washington, the Price Brothers, who owned Gwynn Oak, announced that the park would integrate.
This was a victory, and victories are hard to come by, said Wickwire. I felt lifted that this had happened and we had played a role. I felt it was a great opportunity for me to walk with some wonderful people and try and help do something, he added. The great white roller coaster at Gwynn Oak Park remained for years after the park closed. With its white paint peeling, it stood like a wooden dinosaur, a rickety reminder of Baltimores legally segregated pasta past still fresh in the memories of many.
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Demonstrators sitting, waiting to be carried bodily to paddy wagon
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The White Contribution to The Movement
By Sean Yoes, Afro Staff Writer
Chester Wickwire was one of many White Americans who fought on the frontlines with Blacks in the battle for civil rights. For one time, Blacks and Whites knew they had something at stake, and they joined hands to do it, said Dr. Marion Bascom. Bascom recalled many names, including the Rev. Henry Offer, Ann Miller, Rabbi Lieberman and Eugene Carson Blake, who made great sacrifices in the struggle for justice. Catholic clergy, Jewish clergy, Episcopalian clergy, Sisters: All of them were a part of the movement, added Dr. Bascom. Specifically, in July of 1963, Michael Schwerner, one of the most famous martyrs of the movement, participated in his first civil rights demonstration at Gwynn Oak. Both Schwerner and his wife, Rita, protested at Gwynn Oak on July 7,and a little more than a month later, they both marched on Washington on August 28. After the March on Washington, Schwerner was hired by CORE officials.
He wrote on his CORE application, I have an emotional need to offer my services in the South. In January 1964, Schwerner, along with his wife, left New York City and headed to Meridian, Miss., where he quickly became one of the most hated civil rights workers in the state. A lmost immediately, he organized a boycott of a variety store that sold mostly to Blacks until the store hired its first Black worker. He worked hard to register Blacks to vote, and he asked the congregation at Mount Zion Church in Longdale, Miss., to use their church as the site for a freedom school.
He constantly received hate mail and death threats, and was harassed by local police because of his efforts. Finally, Schwerner and two other CORE workers, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan on June 21, 1963, almost one year after Schwerners first civil rights demonstration at Gwynn Oak Park.
This week, on the 41st anniversary of their murders, 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen, a country preacher and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, was convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman.
Source: The Battle for Equal Education, p. 27
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Gwynn Oak Park
In the late 1950s and early 1960s Gwynn Oak Park was the subject of picketing for integration as it remained segregated until August 28, 1963. In 1955 Baltimore City clergy along with local chapters of the civil rights groups, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) with assistance from the NAACP, demonstrated for integration at Gwynn Oak Park. These protests were held at various times over the years but one huge demonstration occurred at Gwynn Oak Park on July 4, 1963. Demonstrators gathered at Metropolitan Methodist Church in West Baltimore to load buses to Gwynn Oak Park. On that July 4, racially charged “fireworks” flew as 283 people were arrested and charged with trespassing outside the park. The demonstration remained peaceful as many arrested were clerics from all over the east coast. For Michael Schwerner, a CORE worker, this was his first protest and one of his last. Michael was killed by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi just one year later. Two members of the Episcopal Church‘s National Council staff, Bishop Daniel Corrigan and Father Daisuke Kitagawa, Executive Secretary of the Division of Domestic Missions, were also among the group arrested.
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March on Gwynn Oak ParkFriday, July 12, 1963Churches entered into soul-searching discussion of the role its members should play in the nation’s civil rights struggle. Were pulpit pronouncements enough? Could the Christian conscience be satisfied by mere pious expressions of sympathy for the Negro? One who thought not was the Rev. Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, executive head of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.’s general assembly, former president of the National Council and one of the U.S.’s most respected clergymen (TIME cover, May 26, 1961). Turning to a fellow board member, Blake said quietly: “Some time or other we are all going to have to stand and be on the receiving end of a fire hose.” Last week Blake, an old Princeton football guard and a man of enormous energy and determination, put his convictions to the testand although it did not bring streams from a fire hose, it did lead to a Maryland police station
The Choice. Blake was one of 283 whites and Negroes, including 26 Protestant, Catholic and Jewish clergymen, arrested in an integration march on the gaudy Gwynn Oak Amusement Park outside Baltimore, which has long barred Negroes from its 64 acres.
Arrested with him were Bishop Daniel Corrigan [1900-1994], director of the home department of the national council of the Protestant Episcopal Church; the Rev. Dr. William Sloane Coffin Jr., chaplain of Yale University; Rabbi Morris Lieberman of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation [1909-1970]; and Msgr. Austin J. Healy, who marched as an official representative of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. Sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality, the march against Gwynn Oak was carefully planned.
The demonstrators, most of them white, first gathered in Baltimore’s Metropolitan Methodist Church, prayed and sang hymns until an appointed hour, then broke up into several groups and headed for the park.
The first group to arrive included Blake and nine other clergymen. Awaiting them at the park were Baltimore County Police Chief Robert J. Lally and a large contingent of cops. The demonstrators had previously warned the police of their intention to march on Gwynn Oak; the police, in turn, had warned the demonstrators that they would be arrested under Maryland’s trespass law.
Ugly Shouts. Moments after Blake and his group entered the grounds, a park owner stopped them, read the trespass law aloud. The marchers remained silentbut they did not leave the premises. Said Chief Lally: “You can leave or you can be arrested.” Still the group was silent. Police moved in, placed them under arrest, led them politely to a waiting patrol wagon.
So far the proceedings had been almost stately. But then the situation began to get ugly. Wave after wave of demonstrators moved toward the Gwynn Oak entrance. Police arrested most of them peaceably and drove them to district stations in waiting school buses. But some demonstrators sat down on the ground and refused to budge; they were hauled off bodily. The white crowd of some 1,000 inside the park turned mean, and there were shouts of “Dump ’em in the bay,” “Black nigger, white nigger,” “Castrate ’em” and “Send ’em to the zoo.” But the police, in firm control, prevented actual violence.
“I Must Do Something.” Several of the clergymen were immediately freed on $103 bond; seven chose to spend a night in jail, but at week’s end all had been released. Along with the other demonstrators, the clergymen plan to fight the charges, demand jury trial. Explained Bishop Corrigan of the Negroes who demonstrated: “These are my fellow citizens. Being able to go into the park is important to them; therefore it’s important to me. The time has come when it’s not enough just to say this. I must also do something.” In other cities across the country last week, the civil rights struggle spread on.Time
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When the sky didn’t fallby Jack L. LevinMay 28, 1996Dire consequences are predicted should 60 inner-city families be relocated to Baltimore County suburban neighborhoods. But the heavens didn’t fall on similar occasions in the past.The clergymen’s protest against racial exclusion at Gwynn Oak Amusement Park, on July 4, 1963, was supposed to bring the destruction of thousands of businesses. I remember it vividly. My minister, Rabbi Morris Lieberman of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, was a leader of the protest, and I had to defend his actions against members of the congregation who disapproved of a rabbi practicing what he preached.
The three brothers who owned Gwynn Oak Park, Arthur, David and James Price, warned of the park’s demise. That happened only later, when changing timeshome amusements such as television, giant theme parks such as Disneylandkilled off the neighborhood family amusement park.Integration of public accommodations spread rapidly after the Gwynn Oak protest. Already in 1959 Walter Sondheim and Martin Kohn had employed the first black female sales clerks downtown at Hochschild Kohn & Company. Now the other large downtown retailers gradually removed the rusting bars of discrimination.The predicted white boycotts never developed.
Armageddon did not erupt when bowling leagues, ice skating rinks and even swimming pools became racially mixed. The pessimists may be just as wrong about mixed housing. Understandably, when lifetime investments are threatened by falling property values, the acceptance of different neighbors may take longer than the adjustment to integrated public accommodations, but it will come. It has been happening for many years.Windsor Hills was first a white Gentile neighborhood, then Gentile-Jewish and, since 1955, white Gentile-Jewish-black. By 1959, whites were moving in with black neighbors. Windsor Hills demonstrated that integrated living can work, first as a middle- and upper-income community and, later with many low-income families.BaltimoreSun
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Edward Chance DiesFebruary 05, 2003 By Frederick N. RasmussenEdward A. Chance, a civil rights activist who helped lead the historic 1963 demonstrations that culminated in the integration of Gwynn Oak Amusement Park, died of cardiac arrest Thursday at his Catonsville home. He was 70. . . . At age 16, Mr. Chance graduated from his father’s high school in 1948, and began his college studies at Hampton Institute.
He enlisted in the Army in 1953 and, after his discharge with the rank of corporal in 1955, returned to Hampton. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social science in 1956. He was a caseworker for the old Baltimore City Department of Public Welfare while earning his master’s in social work from Howard University in 1961. That year, he was hired as a social worker at the Spring Grove state hospital. He was its director and coordinator of social work at his 1994 retirement.
In his civil rights activism, Mr. Chance picketed segregated restaurants and downtown department stores and worked in voter registration drives. He joined the Congress of Racial Equality in 1961, and in 1963 was named chairman of its Baltimore chapter. CORE had picketed Gwynn Oak in 1955, on All Nations Daywhen the whites-only park was excluding African cultures from recognition in its celebration. Mr. Chance and fellow CORE members held a larger protest at the park, beginning July 4, 1963, and focusing national attention on Baltimore.
“The demonstrations attracted supporters from all sections of society. It was the first large-scale protest in Baltimore to bring together college students, middle-aged businessmen, homemakers, toddlers and the elderly,” The Sun noted in a 1998 anniversary article. During three days of demonstrations, 383 people were arrestedincluding Mr. Chancefor violation of the Trespass Act.BaltimoreSun
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Chester “Chet” L. Wickwire (December 11, 1913 – August 31, 2008) was chaplain emeritus of the Johns Hopkins University. He was a prominent fighter for civil rights and an international peace activist. Reverend Wickwire was remembered as a “consummate humanist” after his death.
Wickwire was born in Nebraska but was raised in rural Colorado where he received a religious upbringing as a Seventh-day Adventist. He received his B.A. from Union College in Lincoln, Neb. During the 1940s he earned the first of two degrees (B.D and Ph.D) from the Yale Divinity School. While at Yale, he contracted poliomyelitis, which resulted in a thirteen month stay in a local pauper’s hospital; “an experience which he credited as providing him with a broader perspective on the world.” Despite his need for crutches afterwards, “Chet the Jet” earned his moniker with his boundless energy. He was ordained in the United Church of Christ. He was married to Mary Ann Wickwire for 71 years until his death.Dr. Wickwire was also an avid poet with two published collections. His memorial service was attended by numerous community leaders and former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes. Sen. Barbara Mikulski wrote a remembrance for the occasion.
Activities at the Johns Hopkins University
In 1953, after graduating from the Yale Divinity School, Dr. Wickwire was hired as the Executive Secretary of the Levering Hall YMCA, located at the Johns Hopkins University. He later became the University chaplain until his retirement in 1984. He became involved in activities both on campus and in Baltimore. In 1958 he started the Tutorial Project, in which Hopkins students volunteered to help tutor Baltimore’s underprivileged, largely black urban youth. This community program is still in operation. The University created the Chester Wickwire Diversity Award to honor an “undergraduate student of any race or ethnic background who promotes multicultural harmony on the Homewood Campus.”
Civil rights endeavors
Dr. Wickwire organized the first integrated concert to happen in Baltimore. It was held in 1959 at the 5th regiment armory and included Maynard Ferguson and Dave Brubeck. He worked with Baltimore’s community leaders, including Walter P. Carter, and ministers in the 1960s to integrate Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. Through his work with community organizations, Dr. Wickwire came to occupy a place of high respect amongst community leaders. Upon the death of its president, Rev. Wickwire was elected the first and only white leader of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, an organization of mostly African-American ministers in Baltimore. In the spring of 1970, when police were searching for members of the Baltimore Black Panthers, they agreed to surrender only to Dr. Wickwire. He was at one time the chairman of the Maryland Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
Peace and labor activism
He was often at odds with the Johns Hopkins University administration as he pursued peace initiatives. He regularly invited speakers such as Philip Berrigan to speak on campus. In 1962, he was detained in Moscow along with Johns Hopkins exchange students for allegedly distributing anti-Soviet literature.
He supported a labor boycott of J.P. Stevens & Co. for its anti-union actions in 1977 as co-chairman of a citizens committee. He pushed for better rights and conditions in 1982 for migrant workers in Maryland as chairman of a panel advising the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Later, with the same panel, he worked to improve rights of Korean-American storeowners. During the 1990s, Dr. Wickwire made a series of trips to Central America to oppose political oppression as member of Ecumenical Program in Central America (EPICA). For his work, his was given an honorary doctorate from the University of El Salvador.Wikipedia
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By Stokely Carmichael
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By Ellis Cose
From a venerated and bestselling voice on American life comes a contemporary look at the decline of black rage; the demise of white guilt; and the intergenerational shifts in how blacks and whites view, and interact with, each other. In the heady aftermath of President Obama’s election, conventional wisdom suggested that the bitter, angry, and destructive elements of discrimination were ebbing at last and America was becoming a postracial nation. . . . Weaving material from myriad interviews as well as two large and ambitious surveys that he conductedone of black Harvard MBAs and the other of graduates of A Better Chance, a program offering elite educational opportunities to thousands of young people of color since 1963Cose offers an invaluable portrait of contemporary America that attempts to make sense of what a people do when the dream, for some, is finally within reach as one historical era ends and another begins.Ecco, 2011
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Obama and Black Americans: the Paradox of HopeBy Gary YoungeBut for all the ways black America has felt better about itself and looked better to others, it has not actually fared better. In fact, it has been doing worse. The economic gap between black and white has grown since Obama took power. Under his tenure black unemployment, poverty and foreclosures are at their highest levels for at least a decade.
Millions of black kids may well aspire to the presidency now that a black man is in the White House. But such a trajectory is less likely for them now than it was under Bush. Herein lies what is at best a paradox and at worst a contradiction within Obamas core base of support. The very group most likely to support himblack Americansis the same group that is doing worse under him.TheNation
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By C. Fraser Smith
Though he lived throughout much of the Southand even worked his way into parts of the North for a timeJim Crow was conceived and buried in Maryland. From Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s infamous decision in the Dred Scott case to Thurgood Marshall’s eloquent and effective work on Brown v. Board of Education, the battle for black equality is very much the story of Free State women and men. Here, Baltimore Sun columnist C. Fraser Smith recounts that tale through the stories, words, and deeds of famous, infamous, and little-known Marylanders. He traces the roots of Jim Crow laws from Dred Scott to Plessy v. Ferguson and describes the parallel and opposite early efforts of those who struggled to establish freedom and basic rights for African Americans.
Following the historical trail of evidence, Smith relates latter-day examples of Maryland residents who trod those same steps, from the thrice-failed attempt to deny black people the vote in the early twentieth century to nascent demonstrations for open access to lunch counters, movie theaters, stores, golf courses, and other public and private institutionsstruggles that occurred decades before the now-celebrated historical figures strode onto the national civil rights scene.
Smith’s lively account includes the grand themes and the state’s major players in the movementFrederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, and Lillie May Jackson, among others.and also tells the story of the struggle via several of Maryland’s important but relatively unknown men and womensuch as Gloria Richardson, John Prentiss Poe, William L. “Little Willie” Adams, and Walter Sondheimwho prepared Jim Crow’s grave and waited for the nation to deliver the body.Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008
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By Robert L. Carter and Foreword by John Hope Franklin
Robert Lee Carter (March 11, 1917 January 3, 2012) insisted on using the research of the psychologist Kenneth B. Clark to attack segregated schools, a daring courtroom tactic in the eyes of some civil rights lawyers. Experiments by Mr. Clark and his wife, Mamie, showed that black children suffered in their learning and development by being segregated. Mr. Clarks testimony proved crucial in persuading the court to act, Mr. Carter wrote in a 2004 book, A Matter of Law: A Memoir of Struggle in the Cause of Equal Rights. As chief deputy to the imposing Mr. Marshall, who was to become the first black Supreme Court justice, Mr. Carter labored for years in his shadow. In the privacy of legal conferences, Mr. Carter was seen as the house radical, always urging his colleagues to push legal and constitutional positions to the limits.
He recalled that Mr. Marshall had encouraged him to play the gadfly: I was younger and more radical than many of the people Thurgood would have in, I guess. But hed never let them shut me up. Robert Lee Carter was born in Caryville, in the Florida Panhandle . . . . NYTimes / Oral History Archive
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 16 June 2011