101-year-old historian’s advice to young activists: The 2020 census matters

The Census is important because you matter, your presence in our society matters and you should be officially recorded for all time.



June 23, 2020 - 9:56 AM

Photo by Dirk Shadd/Times

These last months have been a stressful and difficult time in the history of our country. I say that with some experience behind me. I’m 101 years old.

I was born during the 1918 influenza pandemic. My grandparents were born slaves. My parents were sharecroppers in Alabama before moving to Chicago when I was 3 years old. I fought Nazis in Europe during World War II, and I organized the Chicago delegation to Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington as the civil rights movement took wings.

The murder of George Floyd was shocking in its cruelty, but the circumstances were all too familiar. I’m so proud of the millions of young people across the country, who (many for the first time) marched in protest and dedicated themselves to advancing the project of social and racial justice. In a way, this moment is a passing of the torch to a new generation of activists, all wanting to take action, to make a difference.

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