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Civil Rights Diary
Natasha Coleman
History 145
June 18, 2013
Dr. Lisa Antaki

Civil Rights Diary

The 1960’s was a time of great anticipation, struggle and change. I am going to write an account of those times as told to me by my mother, Mazie Brewer Wilmer. The period I will cover in her life happens between 1963-1965. She was fifteen years old, had been born in Camden, Wilcox County, Alabama in January of 1948. In 2010, the population was approximately 2,100 which hasn’t changed much since the ‘60’s. I have fond memories of the annual summer vacation and Christmas holiday trips from Michigan to Alabama, part of the journey along the way brought us across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, located on US-80 and spans over the Alabama River. As I was preparing to write this diary, I discovered the bridge that my brother, sister and I would close our eyes while crossing was the site of major Civil Rights activity. Located in Selma, AL, it was named for a Confederate brigadier general, named Edmund Winston Pettus, he was also a U.S. Senator from Alabama. It is the site of Bloody Sunday which occurred on March 7, 1965. Peaceful, non-violent civil rights advocates were attacked at this site by armed officers. On March 11, 2013, it was recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
My name is Mazie, I am the 8th child born to Rev. and Mrs. Zollie Edward Brewer. I became involved in civil rights events in my small community at a very early age, not even able to imagine at the time the changes that were taking place in America as a whole. I remember being 15 years old when a young, black student named, Phillip Young was hit by a club and badly injured, this caused the entire black community to become enraged and began civil rights demonstrations in Camden. Another student, Ralph Epperson returned from California to Camden to complete high school and learned of Ralph’s injuries and organized meetings at Antioch Baptist Church which lasted for two months. My father, Mr. Gordon, a community educator and Rev. Haroldson, a native of Georgia gathered those who could rally and supported those who could not for fear of retaliation. Many would be refused credit at local white owned stores, lose jobs, the house or land on which they lived or worse. No one blamed them for their fears, they were certainly valid at the time. Our group of 10-15 people, met to march, sang freedom songs, such as “We Shall Overcome”, and arranged sit-ins. A short time later, Mr. Gordon was unjustly fired. It took 5 years for him to get his job back and compensation pay. We would meet at the church and discuss current local and national events, mostly the movements by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., voting rights, Bloody Sunday which occurred at the Edmund Pettus Bridge when peaceful protestors tried to march across March 1965 and were attacked by armed officers.
My classmates and I who participated missed school because of the protests and were due to graduate soon. Our teacher, Mr. Gordon made sure that we received our schoolwork in spite of our civil obedience, enabling us to be eligible for high school graduation. I actually almost missed attending college, Daniel Payne, a historically black founded college for my freshman year. I was so involved in the movement that time passed quickly and I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. Looking back, I had no idea of how I would feel many years later after participating in an essential part of the American experience. Laws governing everything from voter’s rights to separation of the races in public venues were addressed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. There was triumph and tragedy in varying waves as humanity’s moral code and the U.S. Constitution and state laws were was put to the test. I informed my daughter most recently that her grandfather founded Union Grove Elementary in 1936, grades 1-6. She communicated to me that she had learned that many of the laws enacted resulted from the Federal government’s right to refuse aid to states which possessed discrimination laws from her professor and was astounded at this element of the story. This shows that many small stones can build a monument of change. I glad to be part of history that improved the world for my children and many others.


Excerpts as told by: Mazie Brewer Wilmer, Eastern Michigan University, M.A. Reading Comprehension, 1980, Daniel Payne College, B.S. Elementary Education in (All Subjects), Major: Social Studies. Civil Rights-1955-1965.

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