Remembering one of the veterans of the civil rights movement who never stopped fighting for the Mississippi's black community.
Owen H. Brooks is probably not a name you've heard of. I know I hadn't before I saw his obit in a Mississippi newspaper the other day.
As a civil rights leader in Mississippi for over 40 years, Brooks was one of those rare types who possessed both the motivating idealism but also the stamina and long term commitment to make a difference.
Brooks, the son of West Indian immigrants, was born in New York in 1929 and raised in Boston. He said that he had became politically active at the age of 13. No surprise, perhaps. It was a party of his upbringing. His mother was reportedly a big supporter of Marcus Garvey, a black leader in the early years of the 20th century who promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands.
Another childhood icon was African-American singer and actor Paul Robeson whose advocacy of anti-imperialism, affiliation with communism, and criticism of the United States government resulted in his being blacklisted during the Red Scare of the 1950s. (Brooks actually met Robeson on several occasions.)
Brooks graduated Northeastern University as a electronics engineer but gave up that comfortable career to join the civil rights movement. Attending the March on Washington in 1963, along with more than 200,000 Americans Owen was moved by the speeches of Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders.
While in Boston, Brooks had been an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and helped with fundraising efforts in Boston Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), one of the most important organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
He decided to put his idealism to the test and took a major step which would change his life. During early to mid 1960, all liberal eyes around the country were focused on Mississippi. In response to discriminatory state policies, thousands of idealistic civil rights workers flooded the state to defeat segregation.
In 1965 Brook was one such "outside agitator."