The Rev. Henry L. Bird is here being greeted by Falmouth friends when he left the Island last week for North Carolina.

“Why are you not here?” Thoreau Asked

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The action which led to the jailing of the Rev. Henry L. Bird in Williamston, N. C., last week, is reminiscent of an anecdote about Henry Thoreau of Massachusetts. Thoreau was put into Concord jail because he refused action which he believed was immoral. Emerson strolled down to the jail to visit his friend. “Why are you here, Henry?” he said. “Why are you not here, Waldo?” replied Thoreau.

In his response Thoreau was, of course, pointing out that in the face of a moral issue the man who remains silent or inactive is, in fact, giving support to immorality.

It is unfortunate that the tag, “civil rights,” which falls so lightly from the tongue, is the term applied to the Negro’s struggle to be treated as a human being. What we are faced with is a grave issue of the moral rights of our fellow human beings, which Henry Bird is so faithfully bearing witness to in the great ethical tradition he represents.

In bearing witness in Williamston, N. C., to his deeply felt convictions, I think that Henry Bird speaks for the best in each of us, and for those ethical traditions without which we would be little more than amoral beasts perverted by blind intelligence.

I think we are all enlarged by his action.

Milton Mazor, M.D.
West Tisbury.

High School Seniors Take Civil Rights Stand

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Living on an Island, we tend to become separated from the reality of our country’s problems. It takes the personal sacrifice of men like Rev. Henry L. Bird to remind us that there is no such thing as a “southern” racial issue; the problem and the responsibility of facing it belong equally to all Americans. We wish to express here our deepest admiration for Mr. Bird’s action and sincere hope that his effort will encourage more Vineyarders to take an active stand on civil rights.

Christopher Murphy, Barbara Smith, Wendy Andrews, Lorrain Marlatt, Victoria Danberg, Peter Griesser, Tom Bennet, William Black, Michael Ciancio, Frank Fenner, Deborah Downs, John Bunker, Ashley DeProest, Eleanor Francis, Marcia Garvin, Cecelia Goulart, Rita Harington,

David Howell, Linda Litchfield, Joan Silva, Shirley Medeiros, June Manning, Rosemary Smith, Agnes Sylvia, Robert Tankard, Ellie Thurber, Kenneth Duarte, Tony daRosa, Richard O,Neil, Pamela Brown, Judy Frank, Joan Borges, Ginny Burnham, Leah DiMestico, Bob Nutton,

Joyce Norton, Janice Norton, Francis Metell, Daniel Mayhew, Mark Kurth, Donna Ortiz, Alita Rogers, Sally Sherwood, Brenda Tankard,

Members of the Class of ‘64,
Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

To War on Voices of Inhumanity

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Henry Bird’s protest action against segregation in Williamston, N. C., moves me very deeply. Thank you for printing his diary as well as the news story.

I know from personal and indirect experience that Henry Bird never stops searching out and ministering to the needs of the people here. He seems uncannily to be at the place where help is most needed. It doesn’t matter to him what time it is, or if it’s raining. He doesn’t care whether the need is messy or neat; dangerous or safe; exciting or dull. He doesn’t care if the person in need is an official Christian or not. He goes where he’s needed; is there; does or says something or doesn’t/ And it makes a lot of difference.

His protest in North Carolina removes another layer of my insulation against brotherhood, and melts some of my precious distinctions between Christians and non-Christians; Islanders and off-Islanders; good guys and bad guys.

Before he acted I knew I couldn’t resign from the human race, or join a spiritual yacht club to avoid my connection with all people.

But now I have to protest too. I have to declare war on the voices in my own heart that say, ‘Wait! person doesn’t matter...what’s the difference?’s not my’s all my fault! I expect the voices will keep right on yammering. But I won’t believe them. I won’t take them seriously any more.

Our treatment of Negro people in this country, on this Island and off this Island has been and is, unspeakably inhuman. Sometimes the inhumanity is obvious, sometimes subtle. I’ve really known this for a long time, yet clung to the right to pretend that I had no personal relationship to the fact. Henry Bird’s act makes it impossible for me to do this any longer.

I don’t much care how the inhumanity started; how it has been perpetuated; or who, now is more or less to blame. I just know how much I hate the inhumanity, my own and everybody else’s, toward Negro people. I want it to stop. I want to help stop it. Starting now. Any way I can.

Nancy Hodgson.
West Tisbury.


Admiration and Gratitude

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Many of us talk at length on the civil rights question, but few of us act as directly and as definitively and as courageously as Rev. Henry Bird. I wish to express my admiration and my gratitude for his actions.

Polly Woollcott Murphy

To Support Mr. Bird

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

This is to express our appreciation and admiration for the Rev. Henry L. Bird serving a North Carolina jail term in the cause of civil rights. We, like other sympathizers comfortably safe at home, wonder what in some small way can be done to support him. It has been learned that the need for legal funds for the defense of Mr. Bird and his associates is pressing. Checks, payable to The Education-Legal Fund, may be sent to Walter Stevenson, chairman NAACP, East Falmouth.

Nancy W. Smith
Lambert’s Cove.