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Retired Minister to Take Part in 50th Anniversary Walk of Civil Rights Marches

                                                                                        Tuesday February 24, 2014


A RETIRED Church of Scotland minister is following in the footsteps of Dr Martin Luther King in a fundraising 54-mile walk that will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the marches which ended racial discrimination in voting in the US.

The Selma to Montgomery marches – which are the focus of the Hollywood movie Selma – resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark moment in the US civil rights movement, giving blacks equality in voter registration.

The Rev Iain Whyte, 74, who is believed to be the only Scot taking part in the walk, will join thousands of people in a series of events – including the re-enactment of the walk – between March 8 and 13. US President Barak Obama is expected to join part of the commemoration.

Mr Whyte,who worked in the southern US states in the early 1960s, is walking to raise funds for Anti-Slavery International and has already attracted £3,500 in sponsorship.

“In 1964 I spent a summer in the south when I met Dr King and others in the struggle for civil rights. (Read his account of his meeting with Dr King here.) I did pulpit supply in North Alabama Presbytery and helped the civil rights movement in Mississippi. Four years ago, along with my wife Isabel and the widow of my old friend and fellow student, David Batzka, we visited Selma and vowed to come back this year.”|

He added: “I am inspired by some wonderful people I met that summer – 95-year-old Mr Albert Peters whose father had been a slave and with whomeI stayed and Clifford and Virgina Durr who, as white lawyers and activists in Montgomery support Martin Luther King’s bus boycott at great cost.

“I am inspired by the memory of those courageous folk who, 50 years ago gave their lives for justice on the march - Jimmy Lee Jackson, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzz from different backgrounds. I am dedicating the march personally to David Lee Batzka (1943-2002) friend and civil rights, human rights and peace activist."

He added: “The march is organised by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference founded by Dr Martin Luther King. It is the 50th anniversary  of  the march he led to demand Voting Rights for all citizens and which was enshrined into law and signed by President Lyndon B Johnston several months later. I believe that it is to celebrate this, honour those in the struggle and commit to the continuing struggle to achieve a society in which all share without discrimination. Sadly it is estimated that in recent years African Americans have become even more economically disadvantaged.”

During his visit, Dr Whtye will also deliver a lecture for the State University of Alabama on the evening of Monday March 9  entitled 'Reflections on Civil Rights 50 Years On.' 

Anyone interested in sponsoring Iain can donate here.

An account of his experience on the march will appear in the June issue of Life and Work. Subscribe here.



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