Teacher’s Bold Courage Facing Ugly Injustices of Civil Rights Era

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Why Stand Up? by Gwendolyn G. Smith

What’s it About?

The life of community leader, pastor and teacher, Frank Smith, who faced many hardships for his activities during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He looked to his ancestors for inspiration and guidance in deciding whether to stand.

The school board has branded me a criminal, a bad guy, unfit to live among decent people … It seems the school board would rather have liars, thieves, murderers, drunkards and gamblers than have a man of my qualification in the county, particularly if the man is Black … I shall clear my name of this stigma, or I will die trying.

— A letter from Rev. Dr. Frank Smith to President Jimmy Carter,  Feb. 10, 1978

The Civil Rights Movement came to the South in the 1960s with full force, bringing with it change that affected virtually every man, woman and child, notes Gwendolyn G. Smith in the moving and disturbing story of her father Frank Smith in the book, Why Stand Up? “It was a time of turbulence and growth, as the old system was questioned … It called for courage and perseverance.”

Civil Rights in Alabama

Perhaps more than any other traits, you could see courage and perseverance on the sleeves of Frank Smith, at the time a schoolteacher in Wilcox County, Alabama. A learned and decent man, Frank was called into the school board and told that because of low attendance in his classes he was being terminated.

However, it was later learned that the townspeople were objecting to Frank’s decision to allow two white female civil rights workers to stay in his home.

His termination prompted rounds of appeals and attempts to get his job back. It also led to Frank taking an active role in local civil rights activity and doing what he could to achieve justice, not only for himself but for a greater cause.

The consequences of that activity, as Frank found out and as Gwendolyn so deftly recalls in her book, were frightening. Threats almost became a way of life. “Once I was told not to sit on my front porch because I would be killed if I did,” Gwendolyn writes of Frank’s recollections.

Dramatic and Authentic

Author Smith has done an admirable job of examining the journey of her own family and the exploits of her ancestors at a time when Blacks could be killed on a whim or unjustly prosecuted for crimes they did not commit. It is the inherited strength of her ancestors, the author believes, that helped mold her father into a man of conviction and purpose.

Frank’s struggle for vindication and reinstatement is told dramatically and authentically, in a way that will make readers marvel at his resilience yet cringe at what he had to overcome.

“Where lesser men would have been discouraged by the years of stonewalling and legal maneuvering, the Reverend Smith pressed on,” writes the author, leading to his ultimate victory on many levels.

The Price for Equality

Why Stand Up? is a riveting and important look at a difficult time in our history, showcasing an issue that still reverberates today. It most certainly is worthy of consideration by readers of all ages and backgrounds.

“It was surprising and saddening to see how much hate and suspicion existed in the world,” said Frank. “All we wanted was what rightfully belonged to us. No matter what the consequences, we felt the price to pay for equality was small.”


About Gwendolyn G. Smith:

Gwendolyn G. Smith is a graduate of Alabama State College and the University of Chicago. She retired as a clinical social worker and hosted the year-long “Choice Radio Show.” This was an Internet radio show that discussed how the African Slaves used the music of the spirituals for information, communication and inspiration. She lives a quiet life with her husband of over 25  years.

Why Stand Up? by Gwendolyn G. Smith

Publish Date: 8/23/2022

Genre: Biography, Historical, Nonfiction

Author: Gwendolyn G. Smith

Page Count: 96 pages

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

ISBN: 9781662920110

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