1965 was an ugly era of hate but it proves that our Man in Black, Johnny Cash prevailed during the time when interracial relationship was still considered a taboo.
Vivian Cash, Johnny Cash
Facing a massive boycott from the Southern part of America is a big deal especially when you are a country singer trying to engrave your mark on people’s mind. It’s a threat to your career and you simply do not piss off the people from the South.
However in 1965, people did not threaten to boycott Johnny Cash because of his recent drug arrest. He was threatened to be boycotted and have his shows cancelled because he appeared in a courthouse with a woman that many have thought was African-American.
Flashback to 1951, Johnny Cash met a San Antonio native lady when he was still part of the Air Force to intercept Soviet transmissions. She was Vivian Lebert back then before she became Vivian Cash and they met at a skating rink.
When cellular phones are still a thing of the future and an impossible technological intervention, Johnny Cash and Vivian Lebert tied the knot after exchanging their love letters in 1954. It was also the moment when Johnny Cash was known to the world for his panache performances and the content of his music which challenges the status quo back in the days.
Stardom is a tricky thing and soon enough, Johnny Cash was a victim of textbook pressure of fame and drugs as well as being intertwined to a then love affair with another married woman, June Carter.
On October 4 1965, Cash was arrested after being caught to have bulk of amphetamines and sedatives in possession at the US-Mexico border. Authorities also found 475 Equani; tablets and 688 Dexedrine capsules that led to Cash spending the night in jail.
Racism, Vivian Cash and Johnny Cash
After the infamous drug arrest, the Cash family did not see it coming that as they walked down the courthouse steps in El Paso, Texas, the people were watching ready to ignite the race card against interracial couple.
Associated Press ran a photo of Vivian and Cash after the drug case hearing and Vivian who was Italian-American was rarely photographed and appeared to be black. Alabama White Supremacist Group, National States Rights Party republished the photo in ‘Thunderbolt’ its owned newspaper.
Apparently, the article portrayed Johnny Cash as a cash-sucking artist who use the public’s money to supply drugs to ‘negro women.’
“Johnny and I received death threats, and an already shameful situation was made infinitely worse,” as Vivian Cash penned in her memoir, ‘I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny Cash.’
National States Rights Party was not Ku Klux Klan (KKK) although it has been reported by History that it has intimate ties with the organization and the malicious campaign against Johnny Cash and his wife.
On the other hand, Johnny Cash still served as the voices of the underdogs as throughout his career he composed songs and albums such as ‘Bitter Tears’ which explores the atrocities against Native Americans and their lands. Johnny Cash have also collaborated with black artists during TV shows and songs like ‘All of God’s Children Ain’t Free.’
While Cash and Vivian had an unpleasant ending for their marriage in 1967, Johnny Cash still proved that he was faithful to the voices of the unheard and silenced and that time of hate did not stop him from shutting down groups that was only there to propagate hate and chaos.