By Nellie Wilcox
On Monday, November 20, Lynda Blackmon Lowery presented at Hope College, and she started her lecture with a story. In a dark crowded cell, meant for a total of two, packed with over fifty girls’ bodies, among the crying, hugging, and fear, an alto voice sings, “We will overcome.” Her tale is one of persistence and resilience, much like all of the Selma, Alabama children and teenagers who marched time after time, got thrown in jail, taken away from their home, and yet still continued in their courageous fight for equality and justice.
Witnessing and experiencing the racism at the young age of 7 made Lowery determined to fight for change. Her story starts with her mother dying due to complications with childbirth, where Lowery’s mother was unable to receive a blood transfusion because the white hospital in Selma would not give her blood because of the color of her skin.
Lowery’s role as a changemaker started earlier than she had imagined. At the young age of 13, she was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to march for voting rights and change for her community. Lowery shared how “change comes with being consistent” and she embodied that whole-heartedly. On March 7, 1965 Lowery marched for justice in the murder of Jimmy Lee, a black teenager shot and killed by police. At this march, grown men— a trooper and a sheriff deputy—beat Lynda Blackmon, only 14 years old, senselessly over and over again with a small baseball bat while the other hit and kicked her over and over again. This brutal beating resulted in 38 stitches, producing not only physical scars, but also emotional trauma. Despite this experience, Lowery still decided to attend more marches, and ended up being the youngest registered marcher in the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Her resilience and commitment to change is still an inspiration, and her story deserves to be told.
At the end of her lecture, Lowery was asked what advice she would give to young people today, and she said these wise words: “put the word human back into humanity.” She expressed that everyone brings value to the table, regardless of color of their skin: “God made a rainbow; I’m a part of it, and so are you.”
Lynda Blackmon Lowery’s story was well deserving of the enthusiastic standing ovation on November 20, 2023. To learn more about her story, please consider reading her book Turning 15 On The Road To Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March.
Nellie Wilcox is a freshman at Hope College majoring in Elementary Special Education.