William Johnson was both a singer and guitarist whose music straddled the border between blues and spirituals. While the lyrics of all of his songs were religious, his music drew from both sacred and blues traditions. Among musicians, he is considered one of the greatest slide or bottleneck guitarists, as well as one of the most revered figures of depression-era gospel music. His music is distinguished by his powerful bass thumb-picking and gravelly false-bass voice, with occasional use of a tenor voice.
Johnson remained poor until the end of his life, preaching and singing in the streets of Beaumont, Texas to anyone who would listen. A city directory shows that in 1945, a Rev W J Johnson, undoubtedly Blind Willie, operated the House of Prayer at 1440 Forrest Street, Beaumont, Texas. This is the same address listed on Blind Willie’s death certificate. In 1945, his home burned to the ground. With nowhere else to go, Johnson lived in the burned ruins of his home, sleeping on a wet bed in the August/September Texas heat. He lived like this until he contracted malaria and died. In a later interview his wife, Angeline, said she tried to take him to a hospital but they refused to admit him because he was black, while other sources report that, according to Johnson’s wife, his refusal was due to his blindness. Although there is some dispute as to where his exact grave location is, in 2009, the Blanchette Cemetery was officially located by two researchers. Members of the Beaumont community and researchers are committed to preserving it.
Ms. Colvin lived in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 and at the age of 15, she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white person, in violation of local law. Her arrest preceded that of Rosa Parks by nine months. The court case stemming from her refusal to give up her seat on the bus, decided by the U.S. District Court, ended bus segregation in Alabama.
Colvin’s pioneering effort was not publicized by Montgomery’s black leaders because she was a teenager, unwed and pregnant.
At age 15 and a student at Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery, Claudette Colvin was returning from school on March 2, 1955 when she got on a Capital Heights bus downtown (at the same place Parks boarded another bus nine months later). Colvin’s family did own a car, but she relied on the city’s buses to get to school.
Ms. Colvin was sitting in the section where if a white person was found standing the blacks would have to get up and move to the back. When a white women got on the bus and was standing the bus driver, Robert W. Cleere, ordered her along with two other black passengers to get up. She refused and was removed from the bus and arrested by two police officers. When she refused to get up, she was still thinking about a school paper that she had written that day. It was about the prohibition for black people to try on white clothes in department stores.
“The bus was getting crowded and I remember the bus driver looking through the rear view mirror asking her to get up out of her seat, which she didn’t,” said a classmate at the time, Annie Larkins Price. “She had been yelling it’s my constitutional right. She decided on that day that she wasn’t going to move.”
Colvin was handcuffed, arrested and forcibly removed from the bus. She shouted that her constitutional rights were being violated.
“Price testified on Colvin’s behalf in the juvenile court case, where Colvin was convicted of violating the segregation law and assault.” “There was no assault,” Price said.