A Time for Freedom

Joseph Gelders speaking at Highlander Folk School, circa 1935. Photo courtesy family of Earl Hartman.
Joseph Gelders speaking at Highlander Folk School, circa 1935. Photo courtesy family of Earl Hartman.

As we begin to wind down this Passover 2023, our thoughts turn from the struggle for freedom in the Biblical story of Exodus to more recent struggles for freedom in our own land.

Earl Hartman is a community member and former operator of Caffee Mediterranneum at the Food Oasis on campus. Earl’s grandfather was Joseph Gelders, a 20th century physicist who became a civil rights activist and who survived a brutal beating by the KKK in Alabama for his civil rights work. Gelders was not deterred.

“My mother’s father is the fabled hero in the family,” explains Earl. “He stood up and fought the good fight and nearly paid for it with his life.”

Pictured above, Joseph Gelders gives a speech at Highlander Folk School (now the Highlander Research and Education Center) around 1935. Highlander was a social justice leadership training center in Tennessee where civil rights activists Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis and others received key training in social change and the struggle for freedom.

From his grandfather’s legacy, Earl learned, “If you see a situation that needs to be remedied, you have to find a way to do it.”

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Oshman Family JCC

Written by Oshman Family JCC

The OFJCC is a Jewish Community Center and a vibrant neighborhood in the heart of Silicon Valley where all are welcome. The OFJCC provides a common ground for Jewish institutions, other local groups, organizations and individuals to work, learn and play together for the betterment of the whole community. For more information, visit www.paloaltojcc.org.

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