Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

There were many American cities in which the black residents responded to their segregation, discrimination, and mistreatment in an organized way. The March to Montgomery is perhaps the most famous, but the demonstrations that took place in Albany, Georgia nearly four years earlier, were equally historic.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Charles Sherrod and Cordell Reagon

In October 1961: Students Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members Charles Sherrod and Cordell Reagon traveled to Albany, to help organize the local black community. Although earlier protests had occurred, black residents were frustrated with the city commission’s failure to address their grievances.

Sherrod and Reagon organized workshops around nonviolent tactics for Albany’s African American residents in anticipation of a showdown with the local police.

November 1, 1961: the day the Interstate Commerce Commission’s new prohibition against segregated bus terminals was to go into effect. The Albany, Georgia bus terminal was located in the black section of town and on November 1st — with a neighborhood crowd watching — nine Black students attempted to use the terminal’s “white-only” facilities. As planned, they left  when ordered out by the police and then filed immediate complaints with the ICC under the new ruling.

November 17, 1961: A coalition of SNCC, the NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference members organized a series of civil rights actions.

Police Chief Laurie Pritchett adroitly avoided confrontations that would bring unfavorable national publicity to him and the city.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Bertha Gober

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

November 22, 1961: when Albany (GA) State College students went to the bus terminal to return home for the Thanksgiving holiday, an Albany State dean — whose job depended on the all-white Georgia Board of Regents — was stationed there to direct them to the “Colored” waiting room.

Five young people — 3 from the NAACP Youth Council and 2 from Albany State — defied the dean and the orders of Police Chief Pritchett to leave the white waiting room. They were arrested. Bertha Gober, one of the Albany State students, chose to remain in jail over the holidays to dramatize their demand for justice.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Bernice Johnson

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement
b Zellner, Bernice Reagon, Cordell Reagon, Dottie Miller (Zellner), and Avon Rollins singing in Danville, Virginia, June 1963

After the Thanksgiving holiday, more than 100 Albany State College students marched from campus to the courthouse where they picketed to protest the trial of those arrested at the bus depot. A mass meeting — the first in Albany history — packed Mt. Zion Baptist Church to protest the arrests, segregation, and a lifetime of subservience. At the end of the meeting they rise  to sing, “We Shall Overcome.” Student song-leader Bernice Johnson (Reagan) described the effect, “When I opened my mouth and began to sing, there was a force and power within myself I had never heard before. Somehow this music … released a kind of power and required a level of concentrated energy I did not know I had.”

Albany State students Bertha Gober and Blanton Hall were expelled for disobeying the dean’s orders to use the “Colored” waiting room. Students marched to the college President’s office to protest the expulsions and 40 more were expelled for disagreeing with the administration. Gober will later compose civil rights song, “We’ll Never Turn Back.” 

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Freedom Riders

December 10, 1961: nine Freedom Riders from Atlanta arrived at the Albany Trailways bus terminal and were met by a crowd of approximately three hundred black onlookers and a squad of Albany policemen. Chief Pritchett arrested the riders without incident, telling the press that white Albany would “not stand for these troublemakers coming into our city for the sole purpose of disturbing the peace and quiet in the city of Albany.”

December 11, 1961:  over four hundred people marched to city hall in downtown Albany, protesting the arrest of the Freedom Riders. The city gave the marchers permission to circle the block twice, and when the marchers refused to stop after the allotted distance, Chief Pritchett ordered the protestors arrested. Herding the protestors into the alley between police headquarters, Pritchett arrested 267 protestors. Pritchett informed the press that “We can’t  tolerate the NAACP or the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or any other ‘nigger’ organization to take over this town with mass demonstrations.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Martin Luther King, Jr arrives

December 15, 1961: going against some of his Southern Christian Leadership Conference advisers, King accepted an invitation to Albany, Georgia and speaks at a rally in support of activists that had be arrested the previous day.

December 16, 1961: New York Times: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 264 other Negroes and one white youth were arrested today as they marched on City Hall for a prayer demonstration. All were jailed. There was no violence, despite the tension aroused by week-long racial controversy and the breakdown of negotiations between white and Negro leaders aimed at restoring this city of 56,000 persons to normal.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

December 18, 1961: an agreement was reached that paved the way for the release of the King and about 300 other Negroes from prison.

January 5, 1962: Groups protested to state and college officials regarding the dismissal of students from Albany State College for participating in anti-segregation demonstrations.

March 26, 1962: the original Freedom Riders arrested in December went on trial. Charles Sherrod was beaten to the floor for sitting in the “white” section at the front of the courtroom and white SNCC activists Bob Zellner, Per Laurson, Sandra & Tom Hayden were violently dragged from the courtroom when they sit in the “Colored” section at the rear. (NYT article)

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

King & Abernathy jailed

July 10, 1962: Martin Luther King Jr and Ralph Abernathy, convicted of having violated a street and sidewalk assembly ordinance without a permit on December 16, 1961, went to jail to emphasize their nonviolent defiance of racial barriers. They had been given the choice of a $178 fine each or 45 days in jail. They choose jail.

July 12, 1962: King’s and Abernathy’s fines were anonymously paid and the two men were reluctantly freed. Years later it was revealed that Albany Mayor Asa Kelley paid the fines as a ploy to divide the movement and diffuse media attention on King’s imprisonment.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Demonstrations deny equal protection

July 20, 1962: Robert Elliott, a Federal judge had issued an injunction against mass marches using the legal reasoning that demonstrations require the presence of policemen; policemen who are present during demonstrations could not handle other complaints of other citizens in the community; therefore, the demonstrations were denying other citizens — white citizens — equal protection of the law.

Defying that injunction, 160 protesters were arrested.

July 22, 1962: Martin Luther King Jr. said that Federal District Judge J.Robert Elliott was engaged to an extent in a “conspiracy” to maintain segregation.

July 24, 1962: Chief Judge Elbert P Tuttle of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the ban on demonstrations, stating, “The trial court had no jurisdiction to enter this order at all.” Later that day, the Albany police dispersed a crowd of 2,000 protestors.

July 25, 1962: Martin Luther King Jr. canceled plans to lead a mass demonstration and declared a day of penance for the previous night’s outbreak of violence.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Dr W.G. Anderson

July 26, 1962: WG Anderson, president of the Albany Movement, warned that the group would give a “lesson” to white officials who had spurned repeated requests for negotiations over demands for desegregation of public facilities.

July 27, 1962: police arrest ten demonstrators in front of Albany’s City Hall. After that arrest, a group of 17 demonstrators appeared. Police arrested them as well.

July 28, 1962: Martin Luther King Jr and, twenty-seven were arrested and jailed during two prayer protests in front of Albany City Hall.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

President Kennedy comments

August 1, 1962: JFK responded to a reporter’s question about the protests in Albany, Georgia. Kennedy stated that he is staying updated on the situation through reports from Attorney General Robert Kennedy. The President argued that the Albany City Commission’s refusal to negotiate with African American citizens is “wholly inexplicable.” [video]

August 10 1962: King agreed to leave Albany, ending his involvement in the Albany Movement. Almost all of Albany’s public facilities remained segregated after King’s departure.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Continues…

August 11, 1962: Albany shut down its three public parks and two public libraries after small groups sought to desegregate them.

August 28, 1962: Albany police arrested and jailed seventy religious leaders from the North and Midwest during an anti-segregation protest at the City Hall.

August 31, 1962: Judge J Robert Elliot denied lawyers a preliminary injunction to stop Albany from practicing segregation. Martin Luther King asked President Kennedy to intervene in the racial troubles in Albany.

September 12, 1962: Martin Luther King Jr. decried the pace of civil rights progress in the United States. He also said that “no President can be great, or even fit for office, if he attempts to accommodate injustice to maintain his political balance.

September 25, 1962: a pre-dawn fire at St. Matthew’s Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia destroyed the building. It was the fifth black church to burn over the past month.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

FBI and status quo

November 18, 1962: Martin Luther King, Jr accused agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Albany, Ga., of siding with the segregationists. “One of the great problems we face with the FBI is the South is that the agents are white Southerners who have been influenced by the mores of the community. To maintain their status, they have to be friendly with the local police and people who are promoting segregation. Every time I saw an FBI man in Albany, they were with the local police force.” 

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

1963

March 7, 1963: the Albany City Commission voted 6 – 1 to repeal all segregation ordinances. The Commission also voted 4 – 3  to re-open the library after being closed for seven months, though the city removed the chairs to prevent blacks and whites sitting together.

No action was taken regarding the city’s tennis courts, swimming pools, park recreation areas and teen centers which had been closed at the same time.

March 9, 1963: four black girls took seats at a white lunch counter at Albany Lee Drugs. There were asked to leave and the police were called. The girls were arrested a block away and charged with violating an antitresspassing ordinance.

March 12, 1963: five Black high school-age girls were turned away from two white theaters by the assistant manager for the chain. “We don’t want your business,” the manager told them.

March 13, 1963: Blacks resumed a 16 month fight against segregation in Albany, GA realizing that the March 7 announcement was simply a legal ploy.

A NYT article quoted Police Chief Pritchett, “I don’t know of anything for them to be overjoyed about. You look around and see if anything’s integrated and if it is, call me, will you?”

June 21, 1963: Albany, Georgia police temporarily closed all black businesses and banned blacks from sidewalks after an attempted walk by blacks toward the white shopping district for a sit-in at a lunch counter.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

1964

April 6, 1964: the first step toward integration in Albany, GA came quiet­ly when five black children registered to attend classes the following fall with whites.

Three of the children registered at one elementary school and two at another. All were accompanied by their parents.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement

Medals of Freedom

June 4, 2011: President Barak Obama presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Charles Sherrod and his wife Shirley at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Southwest Georgia Project in Albany.

Albany Georgia Civil Rights Movement
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November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Feminism

Jessie Daniel Ames

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

November 20, 1930: The Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching founded in Atlanta, Georgia by Jessie Daniel Ames, a white Texas-born woman active in suffrage and interracial reform movements. The ASWPL was comprised of middle and upper-class white women who objected to the lynching of African Americans. (next BH, see Nov 22)

Florence Reece

In 1931 Florence Reece (1900-1986) “was a writer and social activist whose song ‘Which Side Are You On?’ became an anthem for the labor movement. Borrowing from the melody of the old hymn ”Lay the Lily Low,” Mrs. Reece wrote the union song…to describe the plight of mine workers who were organizing a strike in Harlan County, Ky. Mrs. Reece’s husband, Sam, who died in 1978, was one of those workers. Pete Seeger, the folk singer, recorded the song in 1941. It has since been used worldwide by groups espousing labor and social issues.” New York Times Obituaries, August 6, 1986. (Labor, see March 3; Feminism, see Dec 10; see News Music )

Hoyt v Florida

November 20, 1961: in Hoyt v Florida  the US Supreme Court held that women could be excluded from serving on juries, in part because a “woman is still regarded as the center of home and family life.” Women could serve on juries, but they had to go to the courthouse and register as being interested and willing to serve. At the time this case first went to trial, only 20 out of about 46,000 women who were registered to vote in Hillsborough County, Florida, had also registered to be a juror. The Court reversed itself 14 years later, in Taylor v. Louisiana (January 21, 1975), which affirmed the right of women to serve on juries. (see Dec 14)

Malala Yousafzai

November 20, 2013: Yousufzai received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Named after the Russian dissident and scientist Andrei Sakharov, who spoke against the tyranny of the Soviet Union, its previous recipients included Nelson Mandela in 1988 and followed by Kofi Annan and Aung San Suu Kyi. [BBC article] (see Dec 6)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Black History

Scottsboro Travesty

November 20, 1933: the seven oldest youths were tried in front of the new judge and jury. Haywood Patterson and Clarence Norris were sentenced to death. (see Scottsboro for full story)

Fair Housing

November 20, 1962:  President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 11063, banning federally funded housing organizations from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race. The order attempted to end the rampant racial prejudice influencing the loan decisions of government-backed organizations like the Federal Housing Administration. These organizations commonly engaged in practices like “red-lining,” a color-coded method of labeling the riskiness of a mortgage based on the racial demographics of a borrower’s neighborhood. Under this system, black neighborhoods typically received the worst ratings (red). As a result, home loans were channeled away from those communities and into mostly white, “less risky” neighborhoods. In the face of high levels of residential segregation, African Americans found themselves without ready access to federal home loans and largely unable to purchase homes regardless of their financial situation. Many African Americans were thus relegated to living in segregated, impoverished areas.

Kennedy had promised to sign the order during the 1960 election campaign, saying he could do it with a “stroke of the pen,” but he then angered civil rights activists by refusing to sign it for over a year and a half.

While President Kennedy’s executive order marked an important symbolic step in redressing the problem of discriminatory housing policies in the United States, it did not immediately have a dramatic impact. Because the order failed to provide a strong enforcement mechanism, impacted agencies were simply directed to take steps to police themselves. This allowed discriminatory lending practices to continue without the threat of federal intervention. It was not until the passage of the Fair Housing Act of April 11, 1968 that a mechanism for enforcing fair housing regulations was established. (BH, see Dec 14; FH, see August 10, 1965)

BLACK & SHOT

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

November 20, 2014: 28-year-old Akai Gurley exited his girlfriend’s apartment in a Brooklyn, New York, public housing building. He started going down a dark stairwell that had a broken light. Rookie New York Police Department Officer Peter Liang, who had his gun drawn as he patrolled the stairwell, shot and killed Gurley. Police said the shooting was accidental. The New York Daily News reported that, instead of calling an ambulance, Liang texted his union. (NYT article) (see Nov 22)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Religion and Public Education

November 20 Peace Love Activism

November 20, 1947: a new organization, Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State (POAU), was formed on this day in Chicago to fight for the separation of church and state and to defend the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The creation of POAU was prompted by the Supreme Court’s Everson v. Board of Education decision, on February 10, 1947, which permitted public funds for the transportation of students to private and parochial schools. POAU continues today under the name Americans United. (see Nov 22)

U.S. Catholic Bishops

November 20, 1948: U.S. Catholic Bishops condemned public school secularism and wanted the Supreme Court McCollum v. Board of Education (January 26, 1946) decision reversed. (see Dec 9)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

November 20 Music et al

see George Harrison deported for more

November 20, 1960: German authorities ordered Harrison deported. He stayed up all that night teaching John Lennon his guitar parts, so The Beatles could continue without him. (see Nov 21)

Bob Dylan album

November 20 and 22, 1961, Bob Dylan: Dylan recorded his first album at Columbia Records.

Suze Rotolo

In mid-December 1961: shortly after recording his first album for Columbia, Dylan moved into his first rented apartment in the middle of West Fourth Street, a tiny, scruffy place above Bruno’s Spaghetti Shop, and persuaded his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, to move in with him. (see January 1962)

I Hear a Symphony

November 20 – December 3, 1965, “I Hear a Symphony” by the Supremes #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Vietnam

Beatrice Whitnah

November 20, 1965: approximately 10,000 demonstrators marched into Oaklad protesting US involvement in the Viet Nam war. In front was Beatrice Whitnah, 84, of Berkeley being pushed in a wheelchair. She was a Gold Star mother who lost a son in World War II. (see Nov 26)

Dow Chemical

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

November 20, 1967: San Jose State College (CA) students demonstrated against the Dow Chemical Company, the maker of napalm. Police were sent in, but the students refused to disperse and several protest leaders were arrested. The next day the students defied California governor Ronald Reagan’s warning against further demonstrations and again staged an anti-Dow demonstration. (see Nov 21)

My Lai Massacre

November 20, 1969: Seymour Hersh, an independent investigative journalist, filed a second My Lai story based on interviews with Michael Terry and Michael Bernhardt, who served under 1st Lt. William Calley during the action that was later dubbed the My Lai massacre.

Also on this day, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published explicit photos of the dead at My Lai. (next Vietnam, see Nov 26)

Sgt Ron Haeberle

November 20, 2009: former Army photographer Sgt Ron Haeberle admitted that he destroyed photographs that depicted soldiers in the act of killing civilians at My Lai. (next Vietnam, see May 23, 2016; see My Lai for chronology)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Native Americans

Alcatraz Takeover

November 20, 1969: seventy-nine Native-Americans seized control of the island of Alcatraz, the former federal prison and now a national park, to dramatize the campaign for Native-American rights. The occupation on this day was led by the Indians of All Tribes (IAT), who claimed that the island belonged to Native Americans under the 1868 Treaty of Ft. Laramie, which provided for the return of all abandoned federal property to Native-Americans. (NYT article) (see Dec 22)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

 Environmental Issues

DDT

November 20, 1969: the Nixon administration announced a halt to residential use of the pesticide DDT as part of a total phase-out. (see April 22, 1970)

Keystone pipline

November 20, 2017:  the Keystone XL pipeline, an $8 billion project that had attracted significant protest from environmental groups, cleared a major regulatory hurdle on its path to completion when Nebraska Public Service Commission certified the pipeline to run through the state.

The commission — “an elected panel of four Republicans and one Democrat,” approved the project by a 3-2 vote. Though they did so with some reservations: The regulators rejected TransCanada’s preferred route through the state, suggesting another one farther east that would avoid the state’s Sandhills region. [NPR story] (see Dec 4)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Jack Kevorkian

November 20, 1991: the Michigan state Board of Medicine summarily revoked Kevorkian’s license to practice medicine in Michigan. (see JK for chronology)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Stop and Frisk Policy

November 20, 2007: a RAND study found that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program did not engage in racial profiling.  (see Dec)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

LGBTQ

November 20, 2013: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law and made Illinois the 16th state to allow same-sex marriage. The governor slowly signed the bill with 100 pens that quickly became souvenirs. He did so at a desk shipped from Springfield that the administration said President Abraham Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address in 1861 — a speech on the cusp of the Civil War that called on Americans to heed “the better angels of our nature.” Referring to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Quinn said, “”In the very beginning of the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois said that our nation was conceived in liberty. And he said it’s dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, and that’s really what we’re celebrating today,” he said. “It’s a triumph of democracy.” [USA Today article] (see Nov 21)

South Carolina

November 20, 2014: the U.S. Supreme Court denied a South Carolina request to block same-same weddings from proceeding. [Reuters article] (see Nov 25)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Immigration History

November 20, 2014: President Obama asserted the powers of the Oval Office to reshape the nation’s immigration system and all but dared members of next year’s Republican-controlled Congress to reverse his actions on behalf of millions of immigrants.

In a 15-minute address from the East Room of the White House that sought to appeal to a nation’s compassion, Mr. Obama told Americans that deporting millions is “not who we are” and cited Scripture, saying, “We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.”

His directive would shield up to five million people from deportation and allow many to work legally, although it offers no path to citizenship.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan signed the so-called “amnesty” law passed by Congress that granted legal status to three million undocumented immigrants, and then acted on his own the following year to expand it to about 100,000 more. [NYT story] (Immigration, see Dec 17; Obama, see February 16, 2015; Supreme Court decision, see June 23, 2016)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

FREE SPEECH, US Labor History & Colin Kaepernick

November 20, 2017:  President Trump’s attack on black athletes continued as he tweeted criticizism of Oakland Raiders player Marshawn Lynch for sitting during “The Star-Spangled Banner” and then standing for Mexico’s national anthem. The Raiders were playing the New England Patriots in Mexico.

Trump’s tweet read in part: “Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down.”  [Huff Post article] (FS, see Dec 15; LH see Dec 14, ; CK, see Nov 23)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

TERRORISM

November 20, 2017: President Trump placed North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. He announced the move  during a public meeting with his Cabinet at the White House and said the Treasury Department will announce new sanctions against North Korea. [NYT article] (see Nov 21)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Immigration History

November 20, 2017: Homeland Security officials announced that the Trump administration would the end  a humanitarian program known as the Temporary Protected Status that had allowed some 59,000 Haitians to live and work in the United States since an earthquake ravaged their country in 2010.

Haitians would be expected to leave the United States by July 2019 or face deportation.

The decision set off immediate dismay among Haitian communities in South Florida, New York and beyond, and was a signal to other foreigners with temporary protections that they, too, could soon be asked to leave.

About 320,000 people now benefit from the Temporary Protected Status program, which President George Bush signed into law on November 29, 1990. This announcement followed the November 6 announcement that ended protections for 2,500 Nicaraguans. [NYT article] (see Nov 21)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Women’s Health

November 20, 2018:  federal judge Judge Carlton W. Reeves struck down a Mississippi law that sought to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In his opinion, Reeves said the statute, described as one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, “unequivocally” violated women’s constitutional rights.

Reeves wrote of his “frustration” that state lawmakers had chosen to pass the law despite the fact that similar legislation has been thrown out by federal courts in other states and that such litigation is very costly for taxpayers.

He contended the “real reason” for the ban’s passage appeared to be the state’s politically driven desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 law that assures a woman’s constitutional right to access safe and legal abortions. [HuffPost report] (see February 7, 2019)

November 20 Peace Love Art Activism
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