The rest of Josh White’s 1960s went something like this:
1961: Is invited to the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, who has been a fan since college. Also appears on a TV show called “Dinner with the President.” In June, has a heart attack and is hospitalized. (As when he broke his leg in high school, he makes the best of a bad situation. Says his wife Carol, “There were times I walked into the hospital in Chicago and got very angry, because the doctor wanted him to rest and I’d walk up there and he’d have maybe six nurses sitting on his bed.”)
1963: Plays at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on the Capitol Mall organized by Bayard Rustin, opening for Martin Luther King. “I admire Dr. King and the passive resistance movement,” he says. “But I don’t like to be hurt and if somebody jumps me, that business about turn the cheek isn’t for me.”
1964: Comes in third in Billboard’s poll of the favorite musicians on American campuses, behind Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte but ahead of Bob Dylan.
1965: Is finally invited to play the Newport Folk Festival after years of being excluded for political reasons. This happens to be the year Dylan appears with The Band, pushing everyone else into the background.
1965(?): Is refused service at a Baltimore bar and files a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Racial Problems and Relations. Returns the next night and is served. “As sure as I live and breathe I had to go back. I’ve been in this mess long before the NAACP, CORE, SNCC, and many of the other groups now doing such a good job. You see, I remember when colored people had to pay to walk the streets in Greenville, North Carolina, and ever since then I swore I would be treated like a human being.”
(To be continued)