Editor's Note: Back in July 2020 we interviewed three individuals from organizations supporting the One Million Miles for Justice virtual event.
Put on by the Civil Rights Race Series, the event raised funds for NAACP, elevated civil rights history and promoted distance running in Black communities.
In Honor of Black History Month, we’re reposting these interviews to highlight these important organizations and the work they do to acknowledge history and move toward a brighter, more inclusive future.
ASHLEY ARNOLD (HOST): You’re listening to part three of a four-part series of audio content that coincides with the One Million Miles for Justice Virtual event. It runs from June 15 to July 15 2020, and you can register at anytime before July 15. The cost for registration is $25 and the net profits go to the NAACP.
KATE SCHWARTZ (HOST): There is a link on fleetfeet.com/blog with a link to the RunSignup page where you can register for the event.
ARNOLD: I’m Ashley Arnold
SCHWARTZ: And I’m Kate Schwartz.
When we look at history broadly, we’re often not seeing the whole picture. We’re seeing the picture that we’re wanted to see from the perspective of the person or people in power.
ARNOLD: But there is always more to the story, as we all know through our own life experiences. And so, when we really examine history, when we start to unravel its threads--we see the layers that have been covered up, like the underside of a braided rope. And it is up to the storyteller to bring them to life.
Today we examine a section of that unbraided history. From the perspective of distance running. But before we do, let’s first take a step back to at US history.
SCHWARTZ: Particularly the modern civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. Because it sets the stage for what’s next.
If you’re listening to this episode when it comes out, around the fourth of July, consider reflecting on our nation’s history. And how there’s always another side to every story.
ARNOLD: Can you start by telling us your name and what you do?
FAITH MORRIS: Faith Morris. I am the Chief Marketing and External Affairs officer at the National Civil Rights Museum.
The museum is dedicated to telling the story of the civil rights movement. We certainly chronicle all of what the movement was about. And we maintain Dr. King’s legacy, and what he meant and what he got done through the movement. But it also talks about the thousands of men and women who risked their lives, some lost their lives in trying to fight for freedom and justice in this country. So, it’s a transformational experience. It’s one that when our visitors come through they say that they’ve been changed. That they, in some instances, learned things they didn’t know. In some instances they have found someone that they know, a relative or themselves, that were part of the movement and their stories are told.
That’s what we’re about. We’re about being a catalyst for positive social change. And we are a site for protest and a site where people come to have difficult conversations. And understand race and bias. Understand what it means to be in this country, and how the civil rights movement has really impacted the world.
So, once you get out of your car you actually begin the National Civil Rights Museum experience. And a big part of that experience is knowing you are on the grounds of the Lorraine Motel. The Lorraine is where Dr. King was assassinated. His last days in Memphis were at the Lorraine. So, you walk on to the museum campus and you see the outside of what was the Lorraine Motel. Even the cars in the parking lot under the balcony are still there. And then you see the wreath, and it’s in front of 306. And that’s where Dr. King was standing when he was assassinated. So, many of our visitors come, one, to see the museum. But two, to absolutely be on the space. Be where Dr. King spent time here, trying to help the sanitation workers working through poverty. When you come to our door, then you see that you are stepping inside of a museum.
ARNOLD: And there is so much about this rich history that people don’t even realize.
MORRIS: People are very surprised how young Dr. King was. He was 39 when he was assassinated. And he had done a lot by 39. And how much of the movement he was really involved in. To see Congressman John Lewis, who was a young man, who was a college student with SNC, a leader in SNC, where these were students who were activists and alongside the SCLC. And sometimes in opposition to it because they were a little more radical. They felt they needed to be more vocal, more active, more deliberate. But John Lewis in so many of our exhibilts. You have Bayard Rustin who was gay, openly gay and in an interracial relationship. But he was the mastermind behind the March on Washington. And because of the times he really couldn’t be out front. Everybody says that Rosa Parks wouldn’t give up her seat. Well, she didn't, but there were people before her, women, who didn’t give up their seats. But Rosa Parks was chosen to really make the statement because of her position, her standing with the NAACP. And they felt that because of her positioning that it would resonate more.
So, there are all kinds of really great stories. So, it’s just instance after instance after instance of the lives and the stories of folks that just did what they needed to do, wanted to have a better life and a life for their families and their communities. And what they risked to get it done. And it’s amazing the stories. And they stay with you once you hear them. You never forget them.