IF Inspires

Inspiration:  The Civil Rights Movement. Fighting for Right. Rudyard Kipling

The March from Selma to Montgomery protesting unfair voter registration practices in the South was actually 3 Marches:

The first march took place on March 7, 1965. The 600 peaceful marchers were viciously attacked on Edmund Pettus Bridge by state and local police with clubs, gun butts and tear gas. It’s remembered as "Bloody Sunday."

The second march, on March 9th, 1965, was more a show of solidarity, of support, of honor as a restraining order prohibiting the March had been issued. Martin Luther King Jr., along with about 2000 protestors, marched to the bridge,  knelt and prayed.  After prayers they rose and turned the march back to Selma.

The third march is the one most remember.  On March 21, 1965, 3200 protestors stepped forward to begin the 54 mile march to Alabama Capitol building in Montgomery. It took them 5 days to reach the capitol. When they arrived their numbers had swelled to more than 25,000—25,000 people of varying colors, nationalities, social and economic backgrounds and religions stood together outside the capitol—but not on the lawn—as one of the conditions in the petition to march had been a promise to “keep off the grass.”

Less than 5 months later, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory voting practices.

David T. Greenberg, son of National Defense League attorney Jack Greenberg, wrote a novel called A Tugging String (Dutton Children’s Books, 2008) about growing up during the Civil Rights era, specifically the time between the 1st March and the 3rd.  Greenberg calls the book a “constellation” saying “it is not a scholar’s rendition of history; it is fiction,” his efforts to illuminate events and personalities from the 1960s civil rights movement and “bring them to life.” Toward the end of the story, David shares a poem his father had shared with him. “It’s called IF,” his father said. “It’s a very important poem.”


If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowances for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you give your life to broken,

And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”,

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With Sixty Seconds’ worth of distance run—

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

By Rudyard Kipling  (from Rewards and Fairies, published in 1909)