Bob Dylan and the Civil Rights Movement, a Lecture by Steve Potts
This past thursday night I went to see/hear Steve Potts’ third Year of Dylan presentation. His previous two lectures, held at the Discovery Center in Chisholm, were on Dylan & the Beatles, and Dylan & the Vietnam War. Potts, who teaches at the community college on the Iron Range, is also an author, having published 150 children’s books alongside his teaching career.
Brian Simonson, a member of the committee involved in helping launch the St. Louis County Year of Dylan, welcomed the small but appreciative audience in attendance and introduced the speaker. The talk was dense with information, his style of delivery easygoing and authentic.
Before diving into his theme Mr. Potts briefly touched on some personal stories that set up his lecture. Bob Dylan’s presence at the August 28, 1963 March on Washington wasn’t an aberration for Bob. In 1971 he participated — invited by his good friend George Harrison — in the Concert for Bangladesh, and later performed in the first globally broadcast concert for a cause, Live Aid. “Today everyone does concerts for charity,” Potts said, noting these latter two events were groundbreaking.
In 1963 the times were indeed changing. The years leading up to the March on Washington included Freedom Rides, lunch-counter sit-ins, arrests and violence against Blacks who were striving to raise awareness regarding the injustices taking place. Southern Democrats were blocking the implementation of the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and President Kennedy, fearing he would lose this voting block in the following year’s re-election bid, did little to pressure the Southern Dems.
Black leaders from nearly all the major groups, decided to call for a March on Washington for jobs and an end segregation. The “Big Six” of this leadership coalition included Roy Wilkins, John L. Lewis, Whitney Young, James Farmer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Philip Randolph…