As described in a companion article, “Shelby Democrats Make Do on GOTV,”
the efforts of local supporters of the Democratic presidential nominee included a Sunday night event — styled as an “African-American Rally for Hillary Clinton” — at Christ Missionary Church on South Parkway.
As noted in the article, the major theme of the event was to establish a meaningful connection between the civil rights struggle of half a century ago and the fight to elect Clinton, thereby to maintain and defend the gains from that era.
Virtually every speaker expressed some version of that theme, but no one did it so vividly and even shockingly as City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove, who told a story that most, if not all, the members of her audience had not heard before, and which had apparently never before been related publicly in any form.
The kernel of that tale was Fullilove’s contention that, while a school girl marching in memory of the recently assassinated Martin Luther King in 1968, she was shot at by a Memphis police officer and left to lie helpless in fear on a downtown Memphis pavement.
Here is the story as she told it Sunday night:
To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin
“…I don't want to be long, but I think about 1968, and I was a young thing, 18 years old, attending the Booker t. Washington High School of leadership excellence. And when Dr. King came to Memphis, members of the NAACP — Jesse Turner, Maxine and Vasco Smith — they came and they embraced us and said, ‘We want you to be part of this movement because we’re doing this for your tomorrow. And I remember sanding on the stage of Mason Temple on the night that Dr. King had given his Mountaintop speech. And I remember how moved I was at 18 years old to hear that speech from this man, who thought enough of our sanitation workers to come to the city to mobilize us, to get what was done that was right to be done, and showed us how to do it.
“The next day, my grandmother and I had gone to Corondolet. That was like Target, and it was in the North Memphis area, and we were shopping, very quickly, because, she said, ‘Look, Dr. King is going to speak at 6 o’clock. We’ve got to hurry up in order to go home and go hear what he has to say. When it was around 3 o’clock that afternoon, we were shopping, and I went down another aisle, and I heard a white man say, ‘They just shot that nigger, Dr. King!’ It hurt me so bad, I ran to my grandmother, and she saw the look in my eyes and said, ‘What’s wrong?’ And said, ‘They’ve shot Dr. King!’ And she threw everything down that she had in her hands, and we went home, and everything was chaotic.
“When you talk about 'the winds were ranging,' well, the winds were ranging in the city of Memphis, they were raging, the storm was brewing, and it didn’t seem to get any better; we began to march, and we marched and marched, and I was shot at by a Memphis police officer, and I had a ponytail on the top of my head. And the bullet hole went through it. And as I was laying on the corner of Vance St., it was Vance and 4th, because no one would open their doors and let me in, and I didn’t know whether I was shot, I was just frightened out of my head, I just lay there and said, ‘Lord, have mercy! Things have got to change…..”
From there, Fullilove segued into a description of the Memphis she sees a half century later, in which “racism abounds…and people are brewing hatred by talking, ‘Let’s make American great again….”
for more details from her story and the Sunday night pro-Clinton rally.