Coon-Line: Boat Tickets to Africa: An Interview with Lincoln Munro by Mackie O'Hara

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If you weren’t white, your life was miserable - Lincoln Munro.

Lincoln Munro, my great uncle, was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1945. As a young child, he grew up in the midst of most of the Civil Rights Era happenings. Therefore, the ideas he formed about the human race and what each person meant to it formed accordingly. Perhaps as a result, he pursued several professions including a teacher, but has been a psychologist for many years.

When the interview first began, I wasn’t really sure how to present my question, so I started out asking what he knew about the Civil Rights Era. He is a man who knows so much about civil rights from every time period that he instantaneously began rattling off information about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Eventually, I was able to explain that I really wanted to know about a personal experience he had. He had several stories to tell and effectively presented them in a letter he sent me:

Dear Mackie,

After our conversation last week, I found my file on Brentwood, MD where Joset and I lived a few doors away from the Brentwood Elementary School where I taught 5th grade.

I made copies for you of: 1) Boat Ticket to Africa that Jesse Stevens, the racist I told you about, handed out to children who walked to school from their own black community nearby. Check out the recipe for “Instant Nigger” on the back. 2) A copy of the ‘Congressional Record’ that cited the efforts of my class to change the racist mood. 3) An article from The Washington Post (Brentwood bordered Washington, DC). This report was on the heels of the racial violence at the high school in our district.

Mackie, there were some additional points about the stories I told you about on the phone that I would like to share with you. When Jesse Stevens and I were in a face-to-face, “nose-chewing” after I watched him try to intimidate a ten your old black boy sitting on the park lawn, I knew he was a dangerous man. He was rumored to have and arsenal of weapons in his home.

But, he never harassed another kid after that. Bullies are cowards and that’s all he was.

The story about the wedding reception at the Capitol Hill club, where the best man, John, was not allowed to enter because he was black, has a good ending too. Joset and I were bridesmaid and usher. When Judy, the bride told us that her father, a Washington high-roller and member of this club, had told John that he could not enter the club, Joset and I were quite upset. We left the wedding reception promptly to go find John at a nearby restaurant. We apologized to Judy and her new husband, Mark, and we left even before the reception line or anything. We found John and his girlfriend and sat with them. He was amazed and appreciated. A half hour later Judy & Mark walked in. Yep. They left their own wedding reception to join us. Her parents were furious. She thanked Joset and me for doing what we did and giving them the courage to leave, also.

Mackie, I share with you these stories, not to brag, but because there is an important message that young people might fear. When you do the right thing no matter how scary or how much you might be criticized, some times it leads to good things happening. Martin Luther King is most famous for his nonviolent approach to social injustice. It worked. There were thousands of people maybe millions who were inspired to do what we could and change the social injustices in our country. Not just in Alabama and Mississippi or Arkansas, but in Maryland and in our nation’s capitol. And that was years after Martin Luther King’s wonderful example. The heart of bigotry and racism still beats in this country. Whether it’s Mexicans, Arabs, Asians, or blacks, there is still social injustice that needs to be stood up to. It’s up to you and your generation to do what you can.

Love, Uncle Link

He explained exactly what was going on in the divided community. There was Brentwood and North Brentwood, North Brentwood was the African-American town primarily. Although most of the town was not racist, the main trouble maker, Jesse Stevens, was able to portray a fear throughout the community. Uncle Link had not been presented with such blatant prejudice in Fall River, but when he saw Jesse Stevens harassing the little African-American boy on the school playground, he knew what he believed in: he believed that all men were created equal and that no person had the right to bully another person, especially a younger person because of the color of that person’s skin.

Everyone seems to have a story about this issue, whether it was something that happened directly to them, or just something they saw, or committed, everyone has a story about the civil rights of African-Americans in America. The interesting thing about this kind of research is that it is so widespread that the information collected by one person will never be the same as the person’s next to them. It is in the destruction of people such as Jesse Stevens that our great nation has become what it is today. We are not perfect, but with the help of 5th grade school teachers like Lincoln Munro, we are getting closer and closer to peace. It also shows that the Civil Rights Movement did not end in 1963, as this story took place in 1973, a full decade later.

I always thought that the Civil Rights Movement was something that was just witnessed in the South; however, I have learned over the course of this interview that the North was just as equally effected and that I have a much more direct relation than I ever believed I did.

Interviewing relatives with jobs in any kind of civil rights or human relations post would be a wonderful idea because not only are you connected to these people, they also generally share a passion for civil rights of human beings. When any student is conducting an interview such as this, they should be sure to use words and phrases which would be more beneficial and understandable to absolutely anyone who might be reading the interview.

Indexing Information
Interviewer: Mackie O'Hara
Interviewee: Lincoln Munro
Relationship to Interviewer: Great Uncle
Setting of Interview: Phone/Letter
Time Period: 1970s
Place: Maryland
Setting of Story: Schools/Society
Focus of Story: Racial/Ethnic
Central Figure: African American
Interview Media Articals/Photographs
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