The Shelter Island Health and Wellness Alliance is continuing its “Necessary Bridges” on-line programming, focused on race and social justice, with Son of the South: A Conversation with Robert Zellner, in partnership with the Shelter Island Library, on Friday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. on Zoom.

Robert Zellner, raised in Alabama, is the son and grandson of Ku Klux Klan members. Early in his life he questioned Jim Crow segregation, which was endemic in his community. As a young man, he joined the Civil Rights Movement, becoming the first white field secretary of SNCC (the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee).

In the course of being beaten, jailed and personally targeted by Alabama’s notorious governor George Wallace, he came to know many of the Movement’s icons, including John Lewis, Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer. 

Mr. Zellner’s autobiography, The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, has been made into a just-released movie produced by Spike Lee, called Son of the South, which can be viewed currently on Amazon Prime and Apple TV. 

Interviewing Bob for the program will be fellow Alabamian Diane McWhorter, author of Carry Me Home, a civil rights history of Birmingham that won the 2002 Pulitzer prize for nonfiction.

A former Shelter Islander, Diane interviewed Mr. Zellner in the research for her book and is eager to reconnect with him about their shared ‘hometown’ communities of Alabama and the East End of Long Island — where Mr. Zellner lived for several years and continued his activism.   

Mr. Zellner has led a fascinating life.  Hearing him talk about it is inspirational to all of us who love heroes, but is also a reminder that summoning moral courage is a rewarding lifelong commitment.

Preregistration for this program is required at silibrary.org.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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