History Talk – February 6

Minutes for History—Chuck Forman  (February 6, 2011)

During the1960s and ’70s there was much interest in our church in the policies of our national government.  The first big interest was in civil rights, with an effort to pass the Civil Rights Act.  A number of members of the church went to the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, for which there was a whole trainload from New Haven.  That was when Martin Luther King gave the famous “I Have A Dream” speech.  At other times church members went to call on Congressmen to get their vote in favor of the act and eventually it passed.

About the same time, there was great turmoil in New Haven over the trial of Bobby Seale, the head of the Black Panthers.  He was accused in complicity in the murder of a member of that group in New Haven.  A national rally was planned for the city by his supporters and people were expected to come from all over the country.  There was fear that there would be riots.  The shops on the Green were boarded up.  Troops with tanks were stationed on the streets near the Green.  The churches were faced with the question of whether they would lock their doors or would welcome the demonstrators.  Our church took a vote and by a narrow majority voted to welcome them and let them sleep in our building.  I do not think any of them came because Yale University adopted the same policy and provided not only sleeping space but food for the demonstrators.  The result of this was that the rally, which filled the Green, was entirely peaceful and good natured.

One other national policy was of special concern to us.  That was the nuclear arms race.  A demonstration of over one million people was held in New York calling for a nuclear freeze.  Our church was well represented there.  The freeze seems by now to have been accepted by our government.  There was also an effort by many churches and other groups to make a long ribbon of peace to be wrapped around the Pentagon in Washington D. C.   Various families in our church made sections of the ribbon with their own words on their section.  We had one section that was surely unique saying “make the world safe for triplets.”  This was, as you may guess, produced by a family with triplets.  A large delegation from our church went as a group to Washington D. C. and theirs, combined with all the other ribbons were brought, stretched round the Pentagon several times.

We were, as you see, a very active and dedicated congregation.