Through the Ages – The Good Samaritan, set in Hicksville, USA, 1961
The story of the Good Samaritan is based in a Southern US town of Hicksville in 1961. The main theme of the story is of racial prejudice and bigotry as Lucy, a young black girl, is turned away from the local high school because of the colour of her skin. White teenagers Annie and Jess are forced to examine their values in the face of that racist and red neck mob, the Wild Ones.
It seems outrageous today but did you know that up until just a few decades ago, in some states of the USA, blatant segregation existed. This meant that there were separate facilities for black and white people such as schools, baths, busses- just about every kind of public amenity- all because the white folks did not want to mix with black. Sound crazy? You bet it was. Read on- it might surprise you.
The Emergence of Black Civil Rights
Black Americans are descendants from slaves brought to the USA from Africa as early as the 17th Century. President Lincoln freed the 4 million US slaves in 1863.
Once they were granted their so- called freedom, blacks were seen as competitors by poor whites. Violent and outspoken racist white groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (who wore silly white robes and burnt crosses) grew in membership and things got pretty ugly.
The providing of separate facilities for whites and blacks was made legal in 1896 on the assumption that facilities for each were ‘equal.’ Unfortunately, this was very rarely the case and discrimination and prejudice thrived; blacks became an easy scapegoat.
The 1960’s was a time of tremendous change in the United States and the issue of Civil Rights for Black Americans was to dominate the headlines for many years.
The incident at Little Rock, Arkansas
The story of the Lucy being turned away from the high school in The Good Samaritan parallels the true events which that occurred in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.
In this shameful event, the Governor of Arkansas stopped 9 black students from enrolling in the local high school – he even brought in the National guard to shut the black students out of the school.
President Eisenhower demanded the National Guard step aside and eventually was forced to send in 1,000 Army Paratroopers to escort the black students into the school.
Martin Luther King and Civil Rights
At about the same time a charismatic and brilliant speaker, Martin Luther King Jr. was coming to prominence as a US Civil Rights campaigner. A Baptist minister, he first made headlines as leader of the Montgomery Bus boycott in which a black woman, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat to a white.(one brave lady!)
King, like that other great campaigner of the 20th Century, Mahatma Gandhi, promoted non violent protest. He thought that violence would only hinder the plight of black people and many agreed with him.
He spoke passionately about equal rights for everyone. His efforts culminated in the tremendous protest march on Washington DC in 1963 which involved 200,000 people – both white and black- as they pleaded for an end to discrimination.
Largely as a result of King and his supporters, the 1960s saw the outlawing of segregation and the guarantee of equal rights to all Americans regardless of colour..
Martin Luther King continued to campaign vehemently until he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.
You’ve heard the music, you’ve seen the fashions…
Lets pay a flying visit to that most grooviest of decades – the 1960’s.
1961- Well it was the time between Rock and Roll and The Beatles.
I know.. I know…when we think of the sixties the images that come to mind are of psychaedaelia, long hair and possibly your parents’ wardrobe. However, 1961 was just before all that far out mind blowing, pink marshmallow and jasmine tinged patchouli and, believe it or not, it did have some genuine excitement of its own.
TV was just becoming big in the USA. 1961 saw the first episodes of such family favourites as “He’s a horse of course” Mr Ed and the Dick Van Dyke show (Actually they share a canny resemblance in facial features – long jaws must have been the height of fashion in ’61; also refer Richard Nixon)
Also big was that cowboy classic “Bonanza.” Entire neighbourhoods would flock around a grainy black and white TV and cheer wildly as Lorne Green or Michael Landon lassoed another steer in between thumping the television indignantly as the picture rolled every 30 seconds..
Music was very middle of the road. Cutting edge Rock and Roll like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis had been moved aside and replaced by a new squeeky clean cut saccharine image – Frankie Avalon and over the Atlantic, Cliff Richard. Come in the Beatles, the Stones and the rest of the British invasion which arrived in 1964 and got things really humming!
Even bad boy Elvis (quite trim at that stage with only moderate sideburns) stopped shaking his booty for a year or two and starting going all schmaltzy. He topped the charts with that tearjerker “Are you Lonesome Tonight.’
In America the folk revival was just beginning, singing songs about the injustices of society such as the Civil Rights issues discussed previously. Musicians included established artists such as Pete Seegar and young blood including Joan Baez and a young folksinger in Greenwich Village, New York going by the name of Bob Dylan.
The beautiful people? Well first prize would have to go to President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, who were the very height of chic. Every woman’s fashion seemed to revolve around Jacqui. Also Audrey Hepburn, thin and waifish, who starred in ‘ Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ in 1961 and she was so cute!! (Mooooon Riiver….) Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren…
Place to go on a Saturday
Still a bit like the 50’s for American kids so diners were the place to be – a burger and shake at the drive in on a Saturday night – think American Grafitti or Happy Days.
Another big news item in 1961 was…
Yuri Gagarin, a Russian Cosmonaut, becomes the first man in space (the first of many!)
Although he was the first human into space, Yuri was not actually the first creature. That honour went to another Russian, a dog named Laika, who was a true martyr to the cause. No one told poor Laika that his space ship, Sputnik 2, wasn’t even designed to return to earth. He never had a chance! All the time poor old pooch thought his ticket was a return flight when it was actually only one way!
In response to Yuri Gagarin’s flight, the Russians are thrilled and drink vodka and dance polkas around Red Square for many nights afterwards chanting “Yuri, Yuri you’re our man”
The Russians’ arch rivals, the USA, are indignant, wild, very annoyed indeed.
President Kennedy, too, is worried, even more annoyed.. Already he is rather brassed off about Cuba and Castro; the Communists have made inroads. Time for America to win the day. He vows and declares that the United States will land a man on the moon before the end of the decade (which they do achieve, just in the nick of time) but that, ladies and gentlemen, is the late 60’s, things have changed and, as you know, that is a different story….