As the air begins to cool and September finally draws to a close, we here at the Progressive Era feel it’s important to point out the significance of this month.
Exactly 10 years ago, on September 18th, 2006, the predominantly African-American community of Gee’s Bend finally set its sails towards Camden, at last reaping the benefits of a brand new ferry service, and gaining access to countless jobs, schools, medical services, groceries…and most of all, justice.
The original ferry (essentially a plank of wood strung along the river by a wire) was shut down amidst civil rights protests as a way to keep blacks away from Camden.
My own grandfather, Hollis Curl, was completely on board with the idea of segregation in his younger years, even acting as a judge for a short tenure, during which he imprisoned over 400 protesters who “didn’t have a parade license” in just one, single day.
But, with age comes wisdom. And with wisdom comes meaningful change, at least in the case of Hollis Curl and his attitude towards the african-american community. In the early 1990’s, Hollis (I like to call him papa) while sitting on his front porch, noticed a blazing, orange glow across the river. A family home in Gee’s Bend had caught fire, and with no fire department nor emergency responders to come to their rescue.
Witnessing this sparked a sudden change of heart in Hollis, so he wrote a front-page editorial describing WHY the ferry service should be re-established. That article soon caught the attention of Earl Hilliard, a congressman at the time.
Needless to say, Hilliard was impressed by Papa’s ideas, and so with his resources and political weight, was able to help Papa and the communities of Gee’s Bend and Camden come together for the first time since the sixties.
To this day, a full decade later, that ferry still stands, and it totes multiple people to and from work every day. The ferry’s historical significance has drawn people from virtually every state, and over 20 different countries to the Wilcox Area.
The ferry itself is absolutely beautiful, state-of-the-art; but it’s what the ferry represents that is most important: two worlds, both of which previously thought they could never integrate, communicate, nor educate the other, were finally able to join forces. Only this time, neither prejedice nor lack of finances could keep that from happening.
The above video will commence “Part 1” of a week-long series pertaining to the Gee’s Bend Ferry and those who were instrumental in it’s re-establishment. Be sure to check back daily for more videos, so that we may adequately reflect over a decade of equality and civility in Wilcox County. See it as a breath of fresh air. See it as proof. Proof that the issues our Country is currently facing can, indeed, be resolved with just a little more understanding.