“I was not sure of the reception from my hometown,” Harold Michael Harvey, author of Freaknik Lawyer, said. He had just finished reading a passage from his memoir to a gathering of Maconites at the historic Douglass Théâtre.
Harvey’s memoir on the craft of resistance is an intimate portrayal of his life coming of age in Macon, first during Jim Crow, and later during integration.
“The most amazing thing about the evening was a young teenager working at the Douglass Theatre tonight. He left his work duties in another section of the Douglass to observe the book launch. He caught my attention because, like him, when I worked at the Riverside Clinic Hospital in the 1960s, I often sneaked away from work and walked to the Courthouse to watch Hank O’Neil, Tom Jackson, and Carr Dodson try cases.”
“Well, this young Black boy listened to the various speakers on the program. When my wife introduced me, she beamed with the love of a 40-year courtship. This young man looked at me, nodded his head, and smiled. Later, when I finished reading about my first day integrating Lanier Jr. High School for Boys, he walked over to me with an approving grin and shook my hand,” Harvey offered.
This young man tapped into something the adults in the room began to realize. They came to the book launch out of respect for and to support their native son, only to learn that Freaknik Lawyer was not just a book, a memoir, but a role model for young people to follow.
Thomas Duval, a retired dentist, and local historian attended out of historical curiosity. “I believe Harold’s book can be made into a comic strip to reach young Black boys and serve as a role model for them,” Duval said after the program concluded.
Duval has long argued that “If Black youngsters knew their history, they would be obligated to behave in ways that uplifted the community.”
While talks are underway to translate the stories of overcoming obstacles found in Freaknik Lawyer into a comic strip, Tina Dennard, Founder and President of Adopt-A-Role Model Program ordered 50 books to give to the young people in this program.
“I want each of my kids to have an autograph copy of your book to serve as an inspiration to them,” Dennard said.
Dennard wasted no time in booking Harvey to speak at Adopt-A-Role Model’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Observance on January 20, 2020.
“This proves,” Harvey said, “that if you have a story that inspires young people, you can, go home again.”
From the desk of Cyn Harvey
Harold Michael Harvey is the author of Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. He is a Past President of the Gate City Bar Association. He is the recipient of Gate City’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award, which he received for his pro bono representation of Black college students arrested during Freaknik celebrations in the mid to late 1990s. An avid public speaker, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org