By Gail H. Marshall Brown, Ph.D.,
Little did the late Rev. C.T. Vivian know that Mississippi’s capital city would one day recognize him with a day in tribute to his Civil Rights legacy as a Freedom Rider. He was arrested May 24, 1961.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021, was declared C.T. Vivian’s Day in the City of Jackson, Miss. The proclamation, in part, signed by Mayor Lumumba, reads: “Whereas Reverend Vivian’s efforts brought him to Mississippi as a Freedom Rider in 1961 and as an organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s (SNICK) “The Summer Project” for voter registration in 1964, Vivian’s devotion to civil rights extended virtually his entire lifetime from 1924 to 2020, including playing leadership roles in Jackson where Vivian was arrested during the Freedom Rides and subsequently jailed and beaten at Parchman Farm Prison.”
“The proclamation was read and presented by the Mayor Monday, May 24, at our press conference,” Michael Morris told The Mississippi Link Wednesday morning. Morris is PR director for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
Not only did Vivian not know that one day there would be a day in his honor in Jackson, but he also perhaps did not realize that his life was a walking history and guidebook. When Vivian was 90, his family and friends convinced him to write his memoirs, according to his daughter Denise Morse and co-author Steve Fiffer.
That book, It’s in the Action: Memories of a Nonviolent Warrior, was discussed at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum as part of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s History Is Lunch lecture series. Leading the discussion was Fiffer, remotely from Chicago. Vivian’s daughter and First Lady Ebony Lumumba, who teaches at JSU, were local, discussing the value of learning about Vivian’s life, his journey and his participation as a Freedom Rider in Jackson in the sixties.
“Dr. Vivian and the rest of them went first to the county jail and then to Parchman Prison,” said Fiffer. “He was badly beaten, and he had a gun stuck down his mouth. He thought it was all over at that point,” Fiffer shared with The Mississippi Link in a recent interview.
Fiffer believes Vivian would be genuinely grateful that 60 years later, the same city where he was arrested is now declaring Wednesday, May 26, C.T. Vivian’s Day. Both Fiffer and Vivian’s daughter feel that he would remain true to his character of humility.
Morse told The Mississippi Link that her father was true to his nonviolent values and humbleness. Even after receiving the greatest honor of the President’s Medal of Freedom award, he remained humbled. “He was a strong believer in education who loved reading,” she said. “He has a personal library of over 6,000 books.”
Morse was on hand autographing her father’s book Wednesday which was available for purchase on-site for $24.99. She said that efforts are made to make his books into a history and guidebook curriculum, especially for young people.
“We were just in McComb, Illinois, where my dad grew up, several days ago presenting the book to some of the high school graduates at his old high school,” Morse said.
She said her father hoped young people understand how valuable they are and how to be respectful and loving toward each other.
Although the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum’s weekly lecture series, which has been very popular at the museums, has resumed in person, the program will also be live-streamed on Facebook for anyone who cannot attend, according to its press release.
The Mississippi Link will have more coverage on C.T. Vivian’s Day event and from its interviews with his daughter Morse and Fiffer in next week’s issue.
For further information, contact: Michael Morris PR director, Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, 601 576-682, email@example.com, Amanda Brown Olmstead, A. Brown Olmstead Associates, cell: 404771-4784; office: 404 659-0919, Amanda@newaboa.com