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Phone call leads Durham man to civil rights movement

Posted February 1, 2015

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— Chuck Fager’s place at one of the civil rights movement’s most pivotal moments started with a phone call.

“Just what you need, another clueless white boy from the north,” he recalled Sunday. “And I also claimed to be a writer.”

During the fall of 1964, Fager reached out to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Atlanta office. Pulled in by the movement’s calls for change and equality, Fager, who was born in Kansas and raised by a Catholic military family on U.S. Air Force bases, wanted to be a part of it.

He was hired by the organization, which at the time was led by Martin Luther King Jr. He was paid $25 a week.

“You could feel things moving,” Fager said. “I was too young to know where they were going."

Fager ended up in Selma, Ala., the starting point of a march in support of equal voting rights. On March 7, 1965, police used billy clubs and tear gas to stop marchers from crossing the city's Edmund Pettus Bridge on their way to Montgomery, Ala. King led another march two weeks later, which was successful and helped lead to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The march and subsequent push for equal voting rights is the subject of the movie “Selma,” currently in theaters.

Fager was arrested alongside King and about 250 others during the first march.

In jail, Fager said he and King were among a small group separated from the rest of the jailed protesters.

“We stayed up in that cell ‘til it got to be almost dark, and finally Dr. King took a nap,” he said. “I was too keyed up and hungry.”

Fager, who now lives in Durham, documented his experiences in “Selma 1965: The March That Changed The South.” First published in 1975, Fager recently released a 50th anniversary edition.

Nearly half a century later, Fager believes things have not changed much, citing North Carolina voting reforms passed by Republican lawmakers requiring voters to show identification at the polls and cutting the number of early voting days.

“There’s been a big roll back,” said Fager, who has joined the Moral Monday movement led by the state NAACP. “So in the updated edition (of his book), the happy ending has been diluted. It’s not completely gone, but it’s very much diluted.”


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  • Mabel King Feb 2, 2015
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  • Amy LaFluer Feb 2, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    . Amen

  • James Scandrick Feb 2, 2015
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    It is no cooncidence this became a point if republicans after Dem and Obama won NC in the 2008 election. They believed Dems had to cheat for NC to not vote Rep. They werent pushing for this law before they lost the election. Its the same ole thing, make it more difficult and provide obstacles, and prevent the opportunity of being accused of racism. An ID isnt needed to show the party you believe in, so dont compare this to picking up Px, tht is dosed to your personal needs and care.

  • kermit60 Feb 2, 2015

    Another person who will say whatever it takes to make another dollar. In this case it's a book.

  • officebox Feb 2, 2015

    Selling a book. Things haven't changed much? I think NC is doing a great job:

  • childofNC Feb 2, 2015

    I have to show ID when I go to the doctor's office and to pick up prescriptions. I don't remember there being early voting days in the 80's. How long has the early voting days been around? A lot has changed and it would continue to get better if people would let some things go.

  • blarg Feb 2, 2015

    Is this a "news" site?

    There is nothing new in this story. Its a 50 year old opinion piece.

  • Joe Simpson Feb 2, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    You don't need a birth certificate to get a state voter ID. Check the DMV website for a list of the twelve different documents that are acceptable to the state for proving identify. You only need two.

    The contortions and lies from the left in the desperate attempt to enable voter fraud are simply astounding. They know perfectly well which party benefits from fraudulent votes.

    Want to vote here? Fine. Prove that you live here and have the right to influence laws that affect MY life.

  • wlbbjb Feb 2, 2015

    When this issue first came up I was totally against it. I have since become convinced that it is the correct thing to do. It is not that difficult to get proof of identity. I now believe that the resistance to requiring proof is based on an agenda that is not in the best interest of "we the people".

  • 68_dodge_polara Feb 2, 2015

    "believes things have not changed much"

    Anything to make a buck, but to be fair this isn't much worse than what William Barber, Jesse Jackson, or Al Sharpton does. The issue I might have it that this time it's a White man making money from the suffering Blacks endured during the civil rights movement.