This picture goes back to the 1960s, in Lousiana. The picture’s caption: “Reverend Joe Carter, expecting a visit from the Klan after he dared to register to vote, stands guard on his front porch, West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana.”
Reverend Joe Carter was the first African American in the twentieth century to register to vote in West Feliciana, even though two-thirds of the parish’s residents were black.
After his registration, there were concerns about what reprisals, if any, would come from white segregationists. Indeed, the Ku Klux Klan burned at least one cross in response to Carter’s ground-breaking act.
The night after Carter registered to vote, vigilant neighbors scattered in the woods near his farmhouse, which was at the end of a long dirt road, to help him if trouble arrived. “If they want a fight, we’ll fight,” Joe Carter told photographer Bob Adelman. Hence, the picture of Carter on his porch, rifle in hand.
“If I have to die, I’d rather die for right, ” said Carter. “I value my life more since I became a registered voter. A man is not a first-class citizen, a number one citizen unless he is a voter.”
After Election Day passed, Carter said he “thanked the Lord that he let me live long enough to vote.”
This picture is from an excellent book titled Mine Eyes Have Seen: Bearing Witness to the Struggle for Civil Rights. The book features pictures from Life magazine photographer Bob Adelman, and chronicle the civil rights struggle in the South and urban black life in the North.
The book is moving and poignant, and reminds us of how far we’ve come. Was it really only 30-40 years that black people faced death threats merely for exercising the right to vote?
I highly recommend that you get this book, and even more, that you share it with the young. Many of them think that struggle is futile. They need to get an earful and eyeful from Rev Joe Carter.