Joining the Cause

Julien Magloire, guest wirter


“Nigger!” Terence wept as he listened to the insults hurled at his family. His father was a civil rights activist, making their family an even bigger target of the Ku Klux Klan. On this particular night, the men in white robes and hoods were threatening to lynch each member of his family. He knew he shouldn’t worry—this was a common occurrence, but for some reason this time felt different.

Out of nowhere, Terence felt a reverberating force rock the house! Then all was black. When Terence Washington woke up, his father, mother, and brother were all dead—the house destroyed. He was now an orphan and homeless, forced to live on the dangerous streets of Birmingham, Alabama.

Terence Washington only survived life on the streets because of James Taylor, a black boxer who had taken him under his wings. Terence caught his attention after James witnessed Terence fight and beat a boy twice his size. He then spoke with him, learned of his situation, and brought him into his own home. As Terry grew up, he did well in school, particularly in English. His teacher noticed he had exceptional public speaking skills. She told him, “People are separated by race from the very moment they are born in segregated hospitals until the day they are buried in segregated cemeteries. Blacks and whites did not attend the same schools, worship in the same churches, eat in the same restaurants, sleep in the same hotels, drink from the same water fountains, or sit together in the same movie theaters” (Freedman). She continued, “Yet if you use this skill you possess, you may make a difference for the black race”. At the time, he dismissed what his teacher said; it seemed that civil rights activists didn’t do much except get themselves and their families killed.

*          *          *

At the age of twenty-two, Terence Washington graduated college, and found a job as a waiter.

“Get back to work, boy!” The voice of his boss quickly snapped Terence out of his trance; he had been reminiscing about his childhood.

“Excuse me sir, but I am twenty-two years old and will not be called a boy!” Terence knew he was out of place, but hated to be disrespected— he’d always been quite stubborn.         “Boy,” said his boss, contempt dripping from his voice. “I’ll call you whatever the hell I please.”

“No sir, you will not!” Terry’s stomach was doing all kinds of flips and turns! He couldn’t believe he was doing this, but he was tired of being considered inferior to the white man. That was the last straw for his boss; he cocked his arm back and swung. His fist whizzed by Terry’s head, as Terry smoothly dodged to avoid the blow.

“You’re fired!” said his boss, and with that Terry decided he wanted to become involved in the civil rights movement.

Terence wasn’t too perturbed that he was out of a job. Mr. Taylor had taught him to save his money, and he had listened. He resolved that he needed a vacation anyway. Terry’s favorite sport had always been baseball, so he decided he would go see Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers play. He had been inspired by Robinson’s career, and was excited to finally go to a game. He didn’t own a car, so he was forced to take the bus to New York where the Brooklyn Dodgers were facing off against the New York Yankees. It would be a laborious trip but it would be worth it in the end.

“One ticket to New York please.”

“One ticket, for the nigger.”

“Don’t you dare call me that! You’d best apologize.”

“What are you going to do about it?”

“Come out here and I’ll show you!”

At that the monstrous ticket vendor came out of his office armed with a baseball bat. He started swinging wildly, gradually becoming vexed as Terry coolly eluded his bat. After the man had fully exerted himself, Terry lunged forward dealing a mighty blow to the face. With that, the man fell down, and Terry happily boarded the bus, thankful that only one or two people had noticed the incident.

As Terence boarded that bus, he suddenly wished he had his own car; as a black person, he was forced to pay in the front, then board the bus from the back and remain in one of the rear seats. After he had found a seat and was settled, his attention was drawn to a commotion in the front. It was a peculiar sight; a young black woman was sitting in the second row of the bus, which was specifically reserved for whites. As the bus started to fill up, a white man demanded that she move to the back of the bus.

“Get up you don’t belong here,” the man barked! The young lady simply replied, “No it’s my right.”

At that, the police were called and she was arrested and dragged of the bus. She noticed Terry’s look of bewilderment and whispered, “Now is the time to rise up.” Terry was amazed at her courage and thought about what she said during his entire ride to New York.

Terry arrived in New York late at night, the city’s many lights glimmered in darkness. The game was magnificent! Robinson was playing his best, and he hit two home runs! After the game, Terence was ecstatic, but his excitement was short lived. He checked his wallet and realized he was almost broke; he barely had enough for the bus ride back home. “Well,” he said, “I’ve always wanted to join the military.” And he did. In 1953, the Korean War was coming to an end. Terry had participated in ROTC while in high school, but had never joined the forces. After he enlisted, he went through an extremely quick training course and was deployed on the front lines with the all black 24th Infantry Regiment.

Boom! Crash! Terry had only been in Korea for two days and they were already pinned down by artillery fire. Earlier the Captain had told everyone to be ready. They were going to attack the Korean artillery posts. The men slowly crept through the trenches. They were only a few hundred feet away when a Korean guard screamed, “Chim-ibja [intruders]!” The 24th Infantry Regiment was suddenly assailed by a hailstorm of bullets and artillery fire. Men were struck down left and right. Terrence and his friend Franklin were forced down.

“We’re losing the group!” Franklin yelled worriedly.

“I know, on the count of three, we’ll make a run for it and join the others.”

“Are you crazy, it’s hell out there!”

At that moment, a Korean soldier appeared out of nowhere and lunged his knife at Terry. Always a move ahead, Terry easily blocked it, unarmed the man, and began to fight him. However, unlike the men he usually fought, this guy was well trained and fought with controlled passion. “Jab, hook, hook, uppercut!” Terry recited what Mr. Taylor had taught him as a boy; but it wasn’t enough, and Terry soon found himself on the ground. He closed his eyes awaiting death. Boom! Terry shuddered, “Am I in Heaven?”

“Of course not, idiot. I shot him.” Franklin answered.

“I knew that, I was just messin’ around. You ready to go now?”

“Nah give me a second to savor this moment, I’ve never seen you this scared!” At that moment, a bullet whizzed past Franklin’s head. “Uhh alright I’m ready!”

As the two comrades caught up with their regiment, someone yelled, “Grenade!”

Terry woke up in a hospital and was told he barely escaped death. He had received a Purple Heart and was honorably discharged from the military. He later found out that the only reason he lived was because Franklin dove onto the grenade, absorbing the impact. He went back home to recuperate and grieve his friend. As he read the newspaper, he noticed there was a bus boycott going on to fight the injustices blacks faced on buses. “The time to rise up is now.” The words of the girl on the bus still rang in his ears. “I think it’s time to rise up,” he said to himself. The boycott was taking place in Baton Rouge, led by T.J. Jemison.

Terry helped Jemison with a lot of the organizing and in putting together a volunteer taxi service.

“To end the boycott, the white power structure of Baton Rouge agreed to a compromise. It stipulated that the two side front seats of buses were to be reserved for whites and the long rear seat was for African Americans. The remaining seats were to be occupied on a first-come-first-served basis. The Black community agreed to the compromise and the boycott ended on June 25, 1953.” (Is this a quote from one of your resources? (Aretha). The boycott didn’t do as much as they had planned; however, it was the basis for other boycotts.

As Terry grew older, he played a crucial part in the Civil Rights Movement, marching with Martin Luther King Jr. on several occasions. He lived a fulfilling life and made a difference for his race. An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Works Cited

Aretha, Davis. Montgomery Bus Boycott. Greensboro: Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 2009.   Print.

Freedman, Russell. Freedom Walkers. United States: Russell Freedman, 2006. Print.


Aretha, Davis. Freedom Summer. Greensboro: Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 2008. Print.

“The First Civil Rights Boycott.” African American Registry, n.d. 27 March 2016.

“1953 Brooklyn Dodgers.” Baseball reference. n.d. 29 March 2016.