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Author to share civil rights experiences

By Maria Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Bob Zellner almost got an eye gouged out during a McComb, Miss., protest march in the 1960s.

In another incident, he and four other white college students were arrested at an Alabama church for listening to speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks.

The two events are among many chronicled in Zellner's book "The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement."

Zellner will discuss the book and sign copies Tuesday, beginning at 11 a.m., in the James M. Baker University Center at Clayton State University, 2000 Clayton State Blvd., in Morrow. He will be joined by his co-author, Constance Curry.

The book details Zellner's roots in the Deep South during the 1960s, and how as the son and grandson of Ku Klux Klansmen, he broke from tradition and joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

"Bob's book is about his absolute fearlessness and determination," said Curry, a veteran of the civil rights movement and a visiting scholar in Emory University's Women's Studies program. She said she and Zellner met in 1961.

Zellner was at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., when he met King while doing work on a sociology paper about the civil rights movement.

"It was a great privilege to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks," Zellner said in a recent interview. "They were ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It was very exciting, because we were young students and he was a leader changing the South and my admiration for him grew."

King "was willing to talk to us about the movement, and he said you can study the problem, but you also need to take action to solve segregation in the South," Zellner said.

Zellner, who now lives in Southampton, N.Y., was arrested 18 times during his time working in the movement, and nearly killed in the McComb march.

He said his mother and his father, who eventually left the Klan, were supportive of his work.

"My father and mother both supported me in joining the movement," Zellner said. "I knew you could be killed. Five of my friends were killed because they joined the civil rights [movement]."

Zellner said the riders once stopped at his college and met violent resistance.

"But once they were healed they got back on the bus, and though they knew they could die for their actions, they continued their travels and that's what inspired me," Zellner said.

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On the net:

"The Wrong Side of Murder Creek": www.blairpub.com/bio&memoir/MurderCreek.htm