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The original item was published from 1/19/2020 9:17:42 PM to 1/27/2020 12:00:00 AM.

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News & Town Board Reports (gblist)

Posted on: January 19, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Greenburgh to conduct living history interviews

with local residents who participated in civil rights movement


stories to air every Martin Luther King’s birthday on cable TV and to be shared with schools, libraries



During the past decade the town has tried to preserve history of local Greenburgh residents involvement in important American history events by creating living history interviews.

We have interviewed about 150 veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict. Every Memorial Day and Veterans day  (and weekend before) we air their stories-each one is about a half hour long.

Last year we expanded the living history initiative to cover 9-11 survivors, first responders, family members who lost loved ones. Their stories air during the weekend leading to 9-11 and on 9-11. These living history stories are also given to schools and libraries.

I am pleased to announce that we will expand the living history initiative to cover the civil rights movement. If you took part in an important Civil RIghts rally in the 1960s you might want to be interviewed. If you met Dr. Martin Luther King or any of the civil rights leaders we’d like to hear about your experiences. The Civil RIghts Living history initiative could also include stories about your experiences in Greenburgh.  Last year I interviewed Ron Cook who was one of the first Afircan Americans to integrate the Ardsley Schools.   Eileen Finsilver and her daughter Jane talk about their experiences they had helping to break down barriers on the radio show last year. Ron Cook stayed with them at their home in 1965. Ron moved  from his home in Charleston, SC, never saw snow before his move to Greenburgh. He was the first 15 year old to attend Ardsley schools. 

Today, minorities comprise a much larger percentage of the Ardsley school population. In 1965, Ron was the exception.. (There was one Chinese American student in 7th grade.)

What was Ron’s journey like? Was it worth it?

Reflections on 53 years of segregated lives.

In the interview Elaine and Ron recall residents driving up to the Finsilver’s home and spitting on the grass.

And, on graduation day Ron received a standing ovation from fellow students. But–during a graduation party was not allowed to swim in the pool.

I found it hard to believe what I heard.  David Bach co-hosted the radio interview. 



I am putting together a committee of volunteers to help organize the civil rights living history initiative. If you would like to get involved please e mail me at Looking for people to coordinate the scheduling of interviews, camera crew members, residents who would like to be interviewed and interviewers.  The Civil Rights living history stories will be broadcast on cable TV every Martin Luther King’s birthday.

Paul Feiner

Greenburgh Town Supervisor


"I believe it was 1962 that I started walking the streets in White Plains carrying signs for fair housing with several other people.
Luckily i met Lotte Kunstler who asked if id like to be involved in a group called the Westchester Coordinating Committee for Justice Now!  I jumped at the chance. We worked on raising money and supporting the young people who were in the south fighting for the right to vote!  Several young people from Westchester went down South. to work and support the cause.
(Mickey Schwerner was one of the three boys who was murdered in Mississippi.)
Out if that horrendous event grew many meetings and fund raisers and events grew the March on Washington.
I went to volunteer at the Urban League in charge of getting  buses for Westchester county for the March.
Working late into the night , going to meetings, making flyers  and getting on the bus at three in the morning August  28 1993,
 i have the distinguished non honor of   
being exhausted, marching, sitting down on the grass and falling asleep and missing the I Have A Dream speech"



Bill Greenawalt is a long time resident of Hartsdale. He was elected as a New York State Democratic Committeman. He was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and served as Northeast Regional Legal Services Director for the Office of Economic Opportunity, setting up 75 programs of legal services for the poor in 8 states and in Puerto Rico. He was involved in the struggle for civil rights. This is his recollection –his participation in the March on Washington.






“With Liberty and Justice for All”

1963 was the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  A major theme of the August 28, 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was that its promises of emancipation and equality, and those promises in the post-Civil War Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, remained unfulfilled.  This March was the Twentieth Century’s pivotal event in the struggle for civil rights and racial equality. 

It had been preceded in the 1950s and 1960s by memorable incidents, some violent: Rosa Parks sitting in the “white” section of a bus, the Montgomery bus boycott, black students entering Little Rock public schools protected by National Guard bayonets, sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, the killing of Medgar Evers, lynchings and the use of fire hoses and police dogs, church bombings, and the first community-wide non-violent direct action campaign in Birmingham.

                John Kennedy’s election in 1960 brought new hope and purpose to the nation: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  The Peace Corps was established in 1961.  But in 1963 progressive legislation for civil, economic and voting rights had stalled in the administration and in Congress.

The March brought together in unity the “Big Six” largest civil rights organizations: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with Roy Wilkins, Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) with John Lewis, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Negro American Labor Council with A. Philip Randolph, who conceived the March, and Bayard Rustin, who planned it, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) with James Farmer, and National Urban League with Whitney Young.  The United Auto Workers (UAW) and the American Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) with Walter Reuther were also prominent participants, as were clergy from the three major faiths in America, many of whom had been on previous marches.

The March was organized as a non-violent peaceful protest.  I was determined to participate in it. 

My alarm rang at about 5:00 a.m.  I shaved, dressed in my blue suit, walked from my Cobble Hill, Brooklyn apartment to Borough Hall, and caught a subway to Pennsylvania Station.  There I boarded a special March train bound for Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.

                On the long train ride, I was fortified by juice, coffee and a doughnut, and by my March-bound fellow passengers.  Activist participants in the March came from every part of America.  Most came by bus, some for seven days from the West Coast!  Overall, 2,200 chartered buses and 40 special trains were used.  Forty-Thousand people came from the New York City area, in 600 chartered buses and 16 special trains.  Many participants flew or drove.  Some even walked from Brooklyn!          

In D.C., special shuttle buses took us from our trains to the Washington Monument, where the Protest March began.  After ceremonies there and a mile walk, it ended at the Lincoln Memorial, where for over three hours speeches and songs were delivered.  It was a Sunday, and the day was warm and sunny.  Over 250,000 people – black and white, young and old – filled the top, bottom and both sides of the Reflecting Pool in the National Mall.  I stood in a crowd on the left side of the Reflecting Pool, near its top.  We faced the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument at our backs.  It was and remains the largest civil rights and human rights demonstration in United States history, and its most famous and spectacular example of non-violent mass direct action, in favor of full civil, political and economic rights for African-Americans.  It helped create a new, fuller national understanding of the problems of racial and economic discrimination and injustice.  The March was Americans exercising in unprecedented numbers the right of all Americans “peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  One writer said she “had seen blacks and whites together, but never like this.”  I assembled photographs of the March for viewing. 

Each of the civil rights leaders spoke, with singing between, including Mahalia Jackson’s “How I Got Over,” Odetta’s “I’m On My Way;” Joan Baez’s “All My Trials, Lord,” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” and “If I Had A Hammer.”  Lena Horne, Bobby Darrin and Bob Dylan also sang.

                The great contralto Marian Anderson sang “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”  A thrill went through me, because from those same Lincoln Memorial Steps on Easter 1939, after she was refused permission by the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing in Constitution Hall, with Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR backing her, she had sung “My Country Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty,” which we just sang.

                Everyone was moved by Joan Baez’s singing the old Baptist hymn “We Shall Overcome.”  We joined hands with our neighbors, sang along, and swayed left and right with the music:

                                                We shall overcome, we shall overcome

                                                We shall overcome, some day

                                                Oh, deep in my heart I do believe

                                                We shall overcome, some day.


                                                We’ll walk hand in hand …

                                                We are not afraid ….

                                                The truth shall make us free …

                                                We shall overcome, some day.


                The March was a miracle.  That day, after the March, its leaders met with President Kennedy and Congressional leaders, pressuring them for a strong Civil Rights bill.  The March confirmed the link between civil rights and economic rights, and gave rise to the economic programs of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.  The March, and John Kennedy’s assassination three months later, broke the legislative stalemate and increased momentum for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under Lyndon Johnson which banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, outlawed segregation in public places, including transportation, restaurants, theaters, and other interstate facilities, and protected school desegregation.  The Act also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed, eliminating barriers to black voting. 

                The March had other important effects.  It increased popular support, particularly among whites, for what was called “a civil rights revolution that transformed America’s law and politics.”   Its message of concern for all was carried over into immigration reform, Head Start, the War on Poverty, Johnson’s Great Society, and Medicare and Medicaid.  It sustained and strengthened those who continued to work for social justice.  It inspired a broad spectrum of Americans.  And the March made bigotry no longer respectable, and curbed abuses in speech and action.

What impact did the March have on my life?  Two years later, in 1965, I left my noted New York City law firm to work in the Anti-Poverty program.  I became Northeast Regional Legal Services Director for the Office of Economic Opportunity.  I traveled constantly, working around the clock, in the eight states from Maine through New Jersey, and in Puerto Rico, meeting with Community Action agencies, lawyers, activists, and the poor, and set up 75 programs of legal services for the poor, some statewide and island-wide, one encompassing all five boroughs of New York City, all with poor and their representatives on every Board of Directors for the first time.  That was one-third of all legal services programs in the country, and I was told I could not set up any more until other parts of America got more programs.  Westchester’s program – one of the best – has expanded into Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. 

                Among the later setbacks and tragedies were the assassinations of President John Kennedy in 1963, of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, and of Robert Kennedy later in 1968, and the killing of three civil rights workers Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner in 1964

                Under Barack Obama, America enjoyed a spirit of tolerance, unity and purpose.  Those gains are now threatened by gerrymandering, voter suppression, rallies and tweets featuring name-calling and reputation assassination, discriminatory and divisive acts, backward-looking policies, isolationism, white nationalism, blind obedience to harmful and poor leadership, and denials of truth at the highest levels in our land.

                How different from the non-violence and “soul force” urged by Dr. King, and by Ghandi and Mandela in India and South Africa.  When the cause is just, peaceful protest in the face of violence stirs the heart and conscience, builds popular support for the cause, and often causes authority to give way.

I turn now to the historic “I Have A Dream” speech of Dr. King, which stunned and inspired us, and millions watching on TV, on that day 57 years ago.

…[T]he Emancipation Proclamation… . is a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.  One hundred years later the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination….

[T]he architects of our republic … were signing a promissory note …that all men --, yes, black men as well as white men -- would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness….  [But] America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned….

Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.  Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice….

1963 is not an end, but a beginning….

I must say to my people… Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred…. [We] must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force….  [We] must not [be led] to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.  They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone….

[We] will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

At this point Mahalia Jackson shouted “Tell them about the Dream, Martin.”  And he did.


… [E]ven though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up [and] live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood….

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  I have a dream … I have a dream that one day … in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today … I have a dream -- that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low.  The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.  This is our hope….  With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.  Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.  Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York…. [F]rom every mountainside.  Let freedom ring….

When we allow freedom to ring -- when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city -- we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.”

                With 250,000 fellow Americans, I stood in awe of this prophetic oration. 

As was said in the Invocation today, “we still have the courage to dream the impossible,” and we will not settle short of true dignity, worth, justice and equality for all.  With Isaiah we are called to “make straight in the desert a highway for our God” and our country.  And as set forth in Galatians, we will not rest until there is “no longer slave or free, no longer male and female,” for all of us “are one in Christ Jesus” or whoever or whatever your deity may be.  Let us go forth from this place rededicated to live, pray and work for the Dream to become reality.  Each time we pledge allegiance we honor America as a nation “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  Let us bind up our nation’s wounds, live out the meaning of this creed, and strive for all America’s citizens, and its immigrants, to have a rebirth of freedom, and true equality and opportunity.   

                Only then will we all be free.


                                                                                                                                William S. Greenawalt ©

                                                                                                                                January 12, 2020

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