Civil Rights Pioneer visits Rapid City for MLK celebrations

An incident in the 10th grade literally slapped sense into him.

“I walked out of my circle of peers for the first time and went to the principal to report that slap, for the first time,” said Dr. Frederick D. Reese.

A child of the segregated south, Reese was hot – tempered and short – fused.  But instead of fighting back physically, Reese said God was preparing him to later take part in a non – violent movement.  Named after a former slave who fought for freedom, it’s no surprise Dr. Frederick Douglas Reese pioneered the fight for civil rights.

“If you were of a white race, there were certain privileges you can enjoy that a person of the black race could not, said Reese.

As president of the Dallas County Voter’s League, the 23 – year old led several marches for equal rights.  On March 7, 1965, known as Bloody Sunday, troopers used attack dogs, tear gas and billy sticks to deter the marchers.

“They began to beat heads, I saw blood flowing, and pandemonium broke out in the crowd, a state of disbelief that this was happening,” said the Civil Rights Activist.

As the nation watched the images on television, so did Dr. King, who personally gave Reese a call.

“He said I sent out a call to the nation for people to come to Selma to lend their bodies to the people of Selma,” recalled Reese.

And so the march from Selma to Montgomery began paving the way for Dr. King’s iconic “I have a dream speech.”

“Dr. King’s dream is being fulfilled but we still have a ways to go,” said Reese.

The freedom Reese and others have fought for was finally signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.  And nearly 5 decades later Reese still celebrates uttering these words of Dr. King “Free at last, free at last, thank god almighty, we are free at last.”

Reese said although the nation has made tremendous progress regarding race relations, there is still work to be done.

His advice: re – discovering our future, through our past.

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