STORY BY RAMEL SEGEARS. PHOTO BY VICTORIA BELL, WOODRIDGE BUREAU.
June 14, 2011. In this series I will talk about people who were inspirational and who stopped segregation in Alabama. I am eleven years old and when I first heard about these things, it made me feel like we were not treated equally. I felt this way after I saw the movie, "Selma Lord Selma" and learned about segregation. People who were treating us this way were brought up to think this way.
The Smallest Freedom Fighter-Sheyann Webb-Christburg Sheyann was born on February 17, 1956, in Selma, Alabama to John and Betty Webb. She attended the segregated public schools of Dallas County. In her junior high years she was one of the first blacks to integrate an all white school. Sheyann says that during her junior high years things were the most horrific. She was pushed down stairs, called bad names, suspended from school, and spat on, and nothing was done by the school administration.
One day, eight year old Sheyann and her friend Rachel were playing outside when they noticed a car drive up at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church with several nicely dressed Negro men. Negro is what African-Americans were called in the 1960's. When they walked over to the car, not knowing who was in the car, they were introduced to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They were told that Dr. King had come to Selma, Alabama to help the Negro people get voting rights. Each night when mass meeting were held at the church, Sheyann would sneak out of her house to attend the meetings. She would also lead the congregation in singing freedom songs. Her favorite freedom song was "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around". Sheyann became so involved with the Selma movement that she began skipping school to attend the demonstrations. Despite warnings from her parents she continued to skip school.
Sheyann learned many things from Dr. King. He taught her to answer questions, like when asked the question "Children what do you want?" the answer should be-- freedom." He also taught her that no matter what the color of your skin is you should treat everybody right and that children also had a battle to fight. There were many demonstrations held in Selma when the Negroes tried to register to vote. They were only allowed two days out of the month to register. Most of the time it was unsuccessful because they were given a literacy test that was very difficult to pass which kept them from registering. Also, demonstrations were held in nearby counties for the same purpose. One night a young black man by the name of Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed while demonstrating for voting rights. To draw attention to the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson it was decided that a 54 mile march to the state capital of Alabama would take place. They would present a petition to Governor Wallace signed to protest that Negroes were not being treated fairly.
On Sunday, March 7, 1965, Sheyann was the youngest person to attempt to march to Montgomery. As they left Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, Sheyann walked near the back with her teacher. Once the marchers had crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge they were ordered to turn back. When they refused they were chased by deputies on horseback, beat with billy clubs, and tear-gassed. As she was running back with the other marchers to Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church she was picked up by Rev. Hosea Williams who was one of the leaders of the march.
Sheyann has never forgotten that experience. Every year on the anniversary of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee she returns back to Selma to reenact "Bloody Sunday." In black history this is important.
DID YOU KNOW? Americans have recognized black history annually since 1926, first as "Negro History Week" and later as "Black History Month." What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied or even documented when the tradition originated. Here is a link about history back in the days http://www.history.com/topics/black-history-month/videos#martin-luther-king-jr-leads-the-march-on-washington that helped me to learn more about history.
Ramel Segears is a 6th grade student at Friendship Woodridge Academy. Victoria Bell is a 5th grade student at Friendship Woodridge Academy.