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In the middle of the night, with no public meeting or notice, Gee's Bend's lifeline was shut down.

"One morning, my husband went down, and he came back and said, 'The ferry's gone,'" says Lucy, a longtime resident of Gee's Bend.

The cast-aside community became a virtually isolated island. Immersed in poverty, proud women who once labored as sharecroppers sat down at quilting bees and stitched their prayers into intricate tapestries.

Find out more about the Gee's Bend quilters.

To get groceries, medicine and an education, Gee's Benders were forced to travel nearly an hour by car, which few people owned. Emergency services were also far from reach. "My cousin's husband, he got sick," says Mary, a Gee's Bend resident. "He had a heart attack. … He died before he got to the hospital because the ambulance didn't come on time."

Despite heartache and hardships, the residents continued to pursue freedom and equality. Then, one day in 1965, Dr. King came to Gee's Bend to share his message of hope. "You may not have the other opportunities other people have, but you know that you are somebody," he said. "You are as good as any white person in Wilcox County. You've got to believe that!"

For many, Dr. King restored their faith in the future. "He said if we lived long enough, we would see little white boys, black boys and girls walk together," Lucy says.
FROM: The Dream Lives: A Martin Luther King Day Special
Published on March 14, 2008


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