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Veterans of Hope: Ruby Sales

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In this Veterans of Hope interview, Ruby Sales tells of her release from prison in Haneyville, Alabama, where she and Jonathan Daniels, a white seminarian, had been registering people to vote.

They let us out of jail, and there was no one there to meet us. It was one of those hot, southern, sticky days when you can look down and see little waves coming up from the pavement.

We were hot. We were thirsty. There was a little store on the corner, a store that we had gone in many times. So someone decided that Jonathan Daniels, Father Morisroe, Joyce Bailey, and myself should go and get the sodas for the group. We started over to get the sodas, and for a moment we hesitated, but we continued and got to the door, and there was Tom Coleman, standing there with a shotgun, threatening, first of all, “Bitch, I'll blow your brains out,” because I was in front and Jonathan was behind me. Things happened so fast. The next thing I know, there was a pull and I fell back. The next thing, there was a shotgun blast and then another shotgun blast, and I heard Father Morisroe moaning for water. And I thought to myself, this is what dead is. I'm dead.

Vincent Harding: Did you know that Jonathan was dead at that point?

RS: No. I just knew he was shot. And I knew that when we went over to him, he looked very still, but we did not want to believe that he was dead.

VH: Ruby, thank you for sharing that with us. What did that do to you?

RS: Well, it rendered me mute. I did not speak significantly for seven months. I could not speak.

I was determined that I would go to the trial although my parents' lives had been threatened. But my family and I were determined that I was going to testify, so I did testify. I was 17 years old, and it was a hard moment in my life. But I knew that somehow, I was going to speak up for Jonathan because he was dead and couldn't speak up for himself.


Vincent Harding and Rosemarie Freeney Harding, themselves veterans of the southern Freedom Movement, are co-founders and co-chairs of the Veterans of Hope Project. Contact the Project at 2201South University Blvd., Denver, Colorado, 80210, tel: 303/765-3194.

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