A Ray of Hope in An Awful Year

SR Ferrell diary entry … July 2, 1964 … from Huntersville, North Carolina.

I plowed corn in Bottoms until noon. We had showers of rain about 12:30 and I did not plow any this afternoon. I set out my blueberry plants this afternoon. President Johnson signed the “Civil Rights Law” into law today. Partly cloudy. Hot. I went to Charlie Gibson’s and got some tomatoes. 69 degrees (Low). 87 degrees (High).


My guest blogger is SR Ferrell. My maternal grandfather (Sherrell Richardson Ferrell was his full name) was a mountain of a man, devoted farmer and prolific writer. He left behind more than fifty years of simple-but-occasionally-profound diary accounts. He and they became central characters in From Fertile Ground, the story of my grief and quest to rediscover my southern roots.

About the same time SR (a staunch southern Republican) was plowing corn in North Carolina, LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson, a storied southern Democrat) was signing the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. The legislation outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or natural origin.

I’m grateful for this history and what we can learn from it. Especially in 2020. So far, it’s been a frantic, frail and frenetic year. Defined by the immediacy of terrible tweets that take precedence in American society over the truth and track record of yesterday. It’s important that we pause for a moment to give the longitudinal threads in our lives their proper respect and attention.

History has shown LBJ was responsible for escalating U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. On the other hand, with a stroke of his pen, the 36th president also proved to have a positive impact on domestic policy. The Civil Rights Act prohibits unequal applications in voter registration, racial segregation in schools, employment and public accommodations.

Certainly, our country hasn’t always followed the rule and spirit of this law. If it had, we wouldn’t now face a long painful road ahead. Sifting through the wreckage of racism. Building a society that actively demonstrates black lives matter.

Unrelated to the prejudices of skin color, today in a surprising 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the rights of LGBTQ workers. Citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, nearly fifty-six years after LBJ signed the law, SCOTUS ruled that no one can be fired from their job on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The SCOTUS decision was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch (a conservative appointed by Donald Trump), who said the “message” of the law is “simple and momentous: an individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions.”

In this case at least, equality and history win out. This is a ray of hope in an awful year.

Perhaps it’s also a present from the past to the present from a president (born in Stonewall, Texas, ironically) hundreds of miles from the Stonewall Inn uprising of New York that defined the beginning of the LGBTQ movement in June 1969 … less than six months after LBJ left the White House.

Truly July 2, 1964 was a mighty day for SR, LBJ and all Americans. … and, with the Supreme Court’s decision today, despite our current troubles, we’ve taken a step in the right direction toward civil rights supported at the federal level.




9 thoughts on “A Ray of Hope in An Awful Year

  1. Your knowledge of history is impressive. Your Mom and Grandfather would be so proud.

    On Mon, Jun 15, 2020 at 5:41 PM Mark Johnson Stories wrote:

    > Mark Johnson posted: “SR Ferrell diary entry … July 2, 1964 … from > Huntersville, North Carolina. I plowed corn in Bottoms until noon. We had > showers of rain about 12:30 and I did not plow any this afternoon. I set > out my blueberry plants this afternoon. President Johnson ” >


  2. Really well-done! You recall a voice from the past and its momentous repercussions for today.
    You’ve set down a valuable record of a Supreme Court decision that will have impact in many ways for many years.


  3. Sherrell Ferrell? My wife has in her lineage a Minnie Winnie. Sometimes we look at her gravestone just for a smile. I was mulling over a potential blog post today on the topic of why conservatives feel like something is being taken away from them when others are afforded equal rights. I read today about a small town in the midwest (I think) where a group planned a BLM solidarity gathering. Hundreds of rednecks showed up with their guns and overran (some violently) the gathering. Why can’t black lives matter? Why can’t LGBTQ people have rights? WTF is wrong with people. Neil Gorsuch!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Sherrell Ferrell. That’s why he preferred SR. Who knew Neil Gorsuch could be so clear headed? The whole notion of one losing status when someone else is treated equally is such a weird and primitive line of thinking. Sounds like the makings of a good post, Jeff.

      Liked by 1 person

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