A view from experienced eyes

By Kevin Teller

The silver screen gives a glimpse of various events throughout the history of the African American struggle and the civil rights movement, but John Hardy actually lived them.

Hardy shared his experiences on Monday, Feb. 9 in the OC banquet rooms for part of a lecture series hosted by the history department.

He spoke about his upbringing in Nashville and the values his family and church community instilled in him from an early age, an upbringing that heavily impacted his decision to become politically active.

Initial involvement in the community eventually influenced Hardy to join the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It was through this organization that he began to take part in sit-ins, protest marches and boycotts that are closely associated with the civil rights movement.

“I’m just hoping to add another layer to people’s knowledge of what we call American history,” Hardy said.

Nashville was the first city in the American south to desegregate lunch counters, an effort that Hardy and his peers fought for. They did this through sit-ins, where African American students would go to pharmacies and diners and sit down at the counters.

Much of what Hardy spoke about took place between 1960 and 1964, a time period in which he says many people do not know as much about.

He used visual aids, including gruesome images of burning buses and bombarded houses in order to illuminate all the peaceful protesting that went on during the early 60s.

Additionally, many depictions of the civil rights movement through media, especially film, have depicted some activists in a false light. Closing the gap between fact and fiction about the history of others is another goal of Hardy.

“A lot of the history that we learn is so manipulated that we don’t get the true picture,” Hardy said. “And I’m just glad that I’m still alive so I can show what little bit I did.”

On the topic of the most recent movie depiction, Selma, Hardy said that while he does enjoy the movie, there are elements that he felt were “quoting Dr. King out of context.”

Elizabeth Shesko, a professor in the OU history department, was impressed by what Hardy had to say.

“It’s just amazing to hear from someone who was there for things that I’ve learned about my entire life,” Shesko said.

African-American Celebration Month is Jan 19-Feb 19. For more information on events, visit  oakland.edu/cmi/aacm or contact the Center for Multicultural Initiatives.