Reflections of Courier Veterans

Alumni of The Southern Courier look back on the the paper and the civil rights movement.


Courier photographer Jim Peppler captures image of himself and demonstrators reflected in a storefront window.

Robert Ellis Smith - What Was The Courier? One result of The Courier's professional journalism was to embarrass local news outlets into covering stories they were uncomfortable with reporting and to force the correspondents from national and international news organizations to report stories they otherwise would have missed.

Robert Ellis Smith - An Act of Patriotism. I went South to work on the Southern Courier as an act of patriotism. Not to “save black people,” but to “save my country.” I was outraged that there were parts of the country that I couldn’t travel safely in, that others could not travel freely in. I was outraged that in parts of the U.S., persons were denied the right to vote, to get a decent job, to stay in travel accommodations or eat in a restaurant of their choice.

Joan Clark Tornow - Memory’s Jagged Edge: Reflections on Birmingham, 1967. Not many white people had crossed the threshold into this black funeral home in Birmingham. Not in 1967. But here we were, two white women, investigating what we believed to be a murder. . . .

Jim Peppler - Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement: A Narrated Slide Show. I had joined the paper in May of '65, inspired by the stories and words of many Americans then struggling in the South to end the system of segregation and oppression of citizens of color that many of us saw as inconsistent with . . . the founding principles of America.

Jim Peppler - King's legacy requires warriors of affirmation. We were all harnessed to the same unnatural burden: white Americans free only in action and black Americans free only in conscience. King's dream was the American dream, and the civil rights movement emancipated us all.

Nelson Malden, Behind the Barber's Chair. Nelson Malden befriended the Courier staff in Montgomery throughout the life of the newspaper, introduced them to key contacts, assisted with sales of the paper and with securing advertising, and often hosted them with his wife Dean, then a school teacher in Montgomery, at their house. In this 25-minute documentary, Mr. Malden recalls the Civil Rights Movement and his friend and minister, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The video is available in disc form from the producers.