D.C. Man Fights to Educate Americans on the Importance of VotingBreaking News
tags: African American history, voting rights, radio, Washington DC, public history
On Sunday evening, Phil Portlock sat across from his computer in his Northeast Washington home, fired up Zoom and once again tried to save democracy from those who would destroy it.
It’s how Phil and his wife, Pat Sloan, have spent every Sunday evening since early August. Together, they’ve been remotely offering a whirlwind history of African American voting rights in the United States — and the recent threats to it.
“We are at a crossroads,” Phil said, colorful protest photos forming the background behind him. Our country is in danger of being torn apart, he explained. The only way to stop that is with a ballot.
Phil is 79. He’s retired from Metro, where for 29 years he was a photographer chronicling such things as the construction of the transit system. He hadn’t had his first camera very long when he went on March 31, 1968, to Washington National Cathedral to see the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver a sermon titled “Remaining Awake During a Great Revolution.”
Said Phil: “That sermon just touched me.”
Four days later, King was assassinated in Memphis. From the roof of his house, Phil saw smoke rising above H Street NE. Parts of his hometown were aflame. Phil walked through the city taking pictures and then got into his car and drove to the National Arboretum.
“It was April, so all the azaleas had just started blooming,” he said. “I had left a scene of tragedy and destruction and sought out some peace.”
Seeking peace — and seeding it — became part of Phil’s life. He became active with the Poor People’s Campaign. He became a student of the civil rights movement and the legislation that resulted from it: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
comments powered by Disqus
- How Decades of Housing Discrimination Hurts Fresno in the Pandemic
- A New Film Details the FBI’s Relentless Pursuit of Martin Luther King Jr.
- Belfast's Troubles Echo in Today's Washington
- The ‘Whitewashing’ of Black Wall Street
- Trump’s 1776 Commission Critiques Liberalism in Report Derided by Historians
- As Trump’s Presidency Recedes into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign — And What it Says about American Democracy
- The Words of Martin Luther King Jr. Reverberate in a Tumultuous Time
- These Textbooks In Thousands Of K-12 Schools Echo Trump’s Talking Points
- How Heather Cox Richardson Built a Sisterhood of Concerned Americans
- Will Trump’s Mishandling of Records Leave a Hole in History?