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Having lived through civil rights era, 103-year-old wants to see 'Selma'

Posted January 8, 2015

— Pauline Holden Latta lived through the civil rights era, so for her 103rd birthday on Friday, she wants to see how Hollywood handles the subject by attending the opening night of "Selma" at a Raleigh movie theater.

The film recounts the events surrounding the March 1965 protest marches from Selma, Ala., to the state capitol in Montgomery over voting rights. The first march ended with state troopers attacking activists on the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River in what became known as "Bloody Sunday." Martin Luther King Jr. led a second march two days later but turned his followers around at the bridge. A third march occurred about two weeks later, when federal authorities protected the marchers so they could complete the journey.

Latta still remembers her grandparents discussing their days as slaves, and she says she can't believe the U.S. has had an African-American president for the past six years.

"I never did think that I'd see the things like they are now," she said Thursday.

By the time King and other civil rights leaders were crusading across the South, Latta was in her 50s. Age, she says, made her wary about marching with them – she watched the news and knew the dangers of fighting segregation.

Still, she went to hear King during several appearances in Raleigh and came away impressed.

"He was a brave character to carry on like he did. I still admire him," she said. "He wanted to shake hands with everybody he could."

Latta recalls daily demonstrations on Wilmington Street and sit-ins at a Woolworth's lunch counter downtown.

"I saw a lot of marching because I lived across the street from Shaw University," she said.

The neighborhood on South Blount Street where she grew up was integrated.

"Those white children in our neighborhood, they played with us and didn't think anything of it," said Latta's 90-year-old sister, Mary Poole.

As they grew older, however, the sisters saw the world wasn't so innocent.

"At that time, when the civil rights first started, I didn’t think it was going to last long," Latta said. "It really takes death sometimes to change things."

Latta said she doesn't have a specific reason for wanting to see "Selma" other than enjoying a night out and a look back.

"We've come a long way but have a lot of improvement to go," she said. "We're not where we're supposed to be, as yet."


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  • smdrn Jan 9, 2015

    God bless, Pauline! I hope you enjoy the movie.

  • Jack Jones Jan 9, 2015
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    Happy Birthday to Pauline Holden Latta.

  • T-ONE Jan 9, 2015

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    couldn't just comment on the story...huh? Just had to bring up "liberals and government" Sheesh!!

  • Terry Watts Jan 9, 2015
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    My kids get the exact same experience as the Ladies in the article and I don't need a gov't program to do it for me. I just go to a park, or to Marbles, or to any of the other gazillion things we have offered to us in Raleigh.

    Don't blame "gov't programs" (or a lack or) for your own children not playing with kids of other races and cultures...

  • T-ONE Jan 9, 2015

    Happy Birthday!!!!!! 103 years old and still have her wits about her. Good story!

  • John Weston Jan 9, 2015
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    Happy Birthday sweet lady! What an awesome story, she's seen so many good changes in her lifetime! I would love to meet her too, would be very interesting to get her take. Hope the movie is historically accurate with no agenda. Partisan, divisive agendas have been so harmful to us as a society.

  • Bobby Caudle Jan 9, 2015
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    I think anyone celebrating 100 plus years is news. happy bday ms pauline

  • farm Jan 9, 2015

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    What did raphael's ancestors do?

  • Renee Grainger Jan 9, 2015
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    HAPPY BIRTHDAY Ms. Latta!! I don't you but I thik you are an amazing, honorable woman. It reason why I say that is not because you have been on this Earth for 103 years but because you have "survived" all these years and all of the things that you must have seen throughout your life. I think I could spend hours with you listening to the stories that you must have. If you need a friend to go to the movie "Selma" with, I would be honored to take you. Again, Happy Birthday and may God watch over you and bless you each and every day.

  • Sherrill Craig Jan 9, 2015
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    Actually, my ancestors were not even in the country, but nice try...Kudos