Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Clarence Earl Gideon

Clarence Earl Gideon

Difficult start

Clarence Earl Gideon was born in Hannibal, Missouri on August 30, 1910. His father died when Clarence was three. His mother remarried, but Clarence and his step father did not get along.

When he was 14, Clarence ran away for a year.

Back in Missouri, but not with his mother, he stole clothes, got caught, and his mother asked to have him put into a reformatory.

He was released after a year and had the scars to prove the mistreatment he received there.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Continued hard times

Gideon married and got a job in a shoe factory.  He lost his job and after committing a number of crimes in Missouri was sentenced to ten years for robbery.

He was paroled but continued to run afoul the law.  According to an article in the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, “In 1934, he was convicted of theft of U.S. government property and conspiracy and sentenced to three years in Fort Leavenworth, where he was assigned to the shoe factory. In 1939, he was arrested on an unknown charge and again escaped from jail before trial. In 1940, he was convicted of burglary and larceny and sentenced as a repeat offender. In 1943, he escaped from prison and went to work on the Southern Pacific Railroad as a brakeman, using an assumed name and forged Selective Service card. The following year he was arrested on a tip, convicted of escape, and imprisoned until January 1950. In 1951, he was convicted of an unspecified crime in Texas and served 13 months.”

Clarence Earl Gideon

Bay Harbor Pool RoomClarence Earl Gideon

Gideon moved to Florida. On June 3, 1961, $5 in change and a few bottles of beer and soda were stolen from Bay Harbor Pool Room (Panama, FL), a pool hall that belonged to Ira Strickland, Jr.

Henry Cook, a 22-year-old resident who lived nearby, told the police that he had seen Clarence Earl Gideon walk out of the hall with a bottle of wine and his pockets filled with coins and then get into a cab and leave. Gideon was arrested in a tavern.

August 4, 1961:  being too poor to pay for counsel,  Gideon requested that the court appoint one.  Because of his extensive criminal record, he was familiar with that practice.

Robert McCrary, Jr, the trial judge, denied the request stating that in Florida a defendant was entitled to a court-appointed defense only in capital offense trials.

Though Gideon was mistaken is his assumption that he was entitled to a court-appointed lawyer, McCrary was also mistaken in that he could have, had he decided, appointed a lawyer.

Defending himself,  Gideon was tried and convicted of breaking and entering with intent to commit petty larceny.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Sentenced to 5 years

August 25, 1961: five days before his 51st birthday, McCrary sentenced Gideon to the maximum sentence: five years in prison.

Gideon appealed his conviction to the Florida Supreme Court. That court denied his appeal.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Supreme Court petition

Clarence Earl Gideon
This is the first page of Gideon’s handwritten petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gideon mailed a five-page hand-printed petition to the US Supreme Court asking the nine justices to consider his complaint.

It is often discussed whether, despite his familiarity with the justice system, Gideon could have written the petition himself.  Some have suggested that Gideon’s cellmate, Joseph A. Peel Jr, a lawyer and judge serving time for murder, had assisted Gideon.

January 5, 1962:  Whatever the circumstances, the Supreme Court, in reply, agreed to hear his appeal. Originally, the case was called Gideon v. Cochran.

January 15,  1963:  the Gideon v. Cochran case was argued at the US Supreme Court. Abe Fortas was assigned to represent Gideon. Bruce Jacob, the Assistant Florida Attorney General, was assigned to argue against Gideon.

Fortas argued (a recording of Fortas’s argument can be heard via the Oyez site)  that a common man with no training in law could not go up against a trained lawyer and win, and that “you cannot have a fair trial without counsel.”

Jacob argued that the issue at hand was a state issue, not federal; the practice of only appointing counsel under “special circumstances” in non-capital cases sufficed; that thousands of convictions would have to be thrown out if it were changed; and that Florida had followed for 21 years “in good faith” the 1942 Supreme Court ruling in Betts v. Brady.

The case’s original title, Gideon v. Cochran, was changed to Gideon v. Wainwright after Louie L. Wainwright replaced H. G. Cochran as the director of the Florida Division of Corrections. (NYT abstract)

Clarence Earl Gideon

Supreme court  decision

March 18, 1963: the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that, The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a fundamental right applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, and requires that indigent criminal defendants be provided counsel at trial. Supreme Court of Florida reversed.

In other words, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that those accused of a crime have a constitutional right to a lawyer whether or not they can afford one.

About 2,000 convicted people in Florida alone were freed as a result of the Gideon decision; Gideon himself was not freed. He instead got another trial. (NYT article)

Clarence Earl Gideon

Gideon’s retrial

August 5, 1963: Gideon had chosen W. Fred Turner to be his lawyer for his second trial. Turner picked apart the testimony of eyewitness Henry Cook. Turner also got a statement from the cab driver who took Gideon from Bay Harbor, Florida to a bar in Panama City, Florida, stating that Gideon was carrying neither wine, beer nor Coke when he picked him up, even though Cook had testified that he watched Gideon walk from the pool hall to the phone, then wait for a cab.

Furthermore, although in the first trial Gideon had not cross-examined the cab driver about his statement that Gideon had told him to keep the taxi ride a secret, Turner’s cross-examination revealed that Gideon had said that to the cab driver previously because “he had trouble with his wife.”

The jury acquitted Gideon after one hour of deliberation.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Attorney General Robert Kennedy

November 1, 1963: in a speech before The New England Conference on the Defense of Indigent Persons Accused of Crime, Attorney General Robert Kennedy stated: “If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in prison with a pencil and paper to write a letter to the Supreme Court, and if the Supreme Court had not taken the trouble to look for merit in that one crude petition among all the bundles of mail it must receive every day, the vast machinery of American law would have gone on functioning undisturbed.”

Clarence Earl Gideon

Gideon’s Trumpet

Clarence Earl Gideon

January 28, 1964,: the publication of Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis. The book provided history of Gideon’s landmark case.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Aftermath

January 18, 1972: after his acquittal, Gideon resumed his previous way of life and married again. He died of cancer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at age 61. Gideon’s family in Missouri accepted his body and buried him in an unmarked grave.

Clarence Earl Gideon

April 30, 1980: made for TV movie and a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, Gideon’s Trumpet, aired on CBS. The moved starred Henry Fonda as Clarence Earl Gideon, José Ferrer as Abe Fortas and John Houseman as Earl Warren (though Warren’s name was never mentioned in the film; he was billed simply as “The Chief Justice”). Houseman also provided the off screen closing narration at the end of the film. Lewis himself appeared in a small role as “The Reporter”.

Clarence Earl Gideon

November 1984 The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union added a granite headstone, inscribed with a quote from a letter Gideon wrote to his attorney, Abe Fortas: “I believe that each era finds an improvement in law for the benefit of mankind.”

Clarence Earl Gideon

Law v reality

March 16, 2013: approaching the 50th anniversary of  Gideon v. Wainwright, a NYT article stated, the Legal Services Corporation, the Congressionally financed organization that provides lawyers to the poor in civil matters, says there are more than 60 million Americans — 35 percent more than in 2005 — who qualify for its services. But it calculates that 80 percent of the legal needs of the poor go unmet. In state after state, according to a survey of trial judges, more people are now representing themselves in court and they are failing to present necessary evidence, committing procedural errors and poorly examining witnesses, all while new lawyers remain unemployed… According to the World Justice Project, a nonprofit group promoting the rule of law that got its start through the American Bar Association, the United States ranks 66th out of 98 countries in access to and affordability of civil legal services.

Clarence Earl Gideon
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Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Sit ins

When Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. and David Richmond sat down at the F.W. Woolworth store in Greensboro, N.C, they were continuing a non-violent strategy that other had used before them. Here is a chronology of these brave people, their story, their influence, and their successes.

The majority of the data for this chronology came from the Sit In Movement dot org site)

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Greensboro Four

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

February 1, 1960:  Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. and David Richmond (The Greensboro Four) entered the F.W. Woolworth store in Greensboro, N.C., around 4:30 p.m. and purchased merchandise at several counters. (Independent Lens bios of the Greensboro Four)

They sat down at the store’s “whites only” lunch counter and ordered coffee, and were ignored and then asked to leave. They remained seated at the counter until the store closed early at 5 p.m. The four friends immediately returned to campus and recruited others for the cause.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Greensboro 29

February 2, 1960:  twenty-five men, including the four freshmen, along with four women returned to the F.W. Woolworth store. The students sat from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. while white patrons heckled them. Undaunted, they sat with books and study materials to keep them busy. They were still refused service.

Reporters from both newspapers, a TV camera man and Greensboro police officers monitored the scene. Once the sit-ins hit the news, momentum picked up and students across the community embraced the movement.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Student Executive Committee for Justice

That night, students met with college officials and concerned citizens. They organized the Student Executive Committee for Justice to plan the continued demonstrations. This committee sent a letter to the president of F.W. Woolworth in New York requesting that his company “take a firm stand to eliminate discrimination”. Meanwhile, at its regular monthly meeting, the NAACP voted in unanimous support of the students’ efforts. 

February 3, 1960: more than 60 students, one-third of them female, returned to the Greensboro store and sat down at every available lunch counter seat. Students from Bennett College and Dudley High School increased the number of protesters, and many carpooled to and from the F.W. Woolworth store to sit-in shifts.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Local custom

Members of the Ku Klux Klan, including the state’s official chaplain George Dorsett, were present. White patrons taunted the students as they studied. A statement issued from F.W. Woolworth’s national headquarters read that company policy was “to abide by local custom.” 

February 4, 1960: more than 300 students participated in the protests. Students from N.C. A & T, Bennett College, and Dudley High School occupied every seat at the lunch counter. Three white supporters (Genie Seaman, Marilyn Lott and Ann Dearsley) from the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNCG), joined the protest.

As tensions grew, police kept the crowd in check. Waiting students then marched to the basement lunch counter at S.H. Kress & Co., the second store targeted by the Student Executive Committee, and the Greensboro sit-ins spread.

That evening, student leaders, college administrators and representatives from F.W. Woolworth and Kress stores held talks. The stores refused to integrate as long as other downtown facilities remained segregated. Students insisted the F.W. Woolworth and Kress retail stores would remain targets, and the meeting ended without resolution.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Tensions mount

Febuary 5, 1960: tensions mounted early in the day when 50 white males were seated at the Woolworth counter. Sit-in participants, including white students from area colleges, filled the dozen or so remaining seats. Police removed two white youth from the store for swearing and yelling. By 3 p.m., more than 300 people were present. Members of both races were escorted from the premises. Three whites were arrested and the store closed at 5:30 pm.

Store representatives, students and college officials met once again that evening. F.W. Woolworth personnel took issue with the students limiting their protests to two stores and asked college administrators to end the sit-ins. Administrators plainly stated they could not control the private activities of students. Some administrators recommended store officials consider temporarily closing the counters. The meeting adjourned after two hours of debate. 

February 6, 1960: early that morning, more than 1,400 N.C. A & T students met in Harrison Auditorium. After voting to continue the protest, many headed to the F.W. Woolworth store. They filled every seat as the store opened. A large number of counter protesters showed up as well. By noon, more than 1,000 people packed the store.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Bomb threat

At 1 p.m., a caller warned a bomb was set to explode at 1:30 p.m. The crowd moved to the Kress store, which immediately closed. Arrests were made outside both stores. The F.W. Woolworth store was cleared and closed as the the manager announced the temporary closing of the lunch counter in the interest of public safety.

That evening at N.C. A&T, a mass rally of 1,600 students voted to suspend demonstrations for two weeks. Dean William Gamble proclaimed this would give the stores time “to set policies regarding food service for Negro students.”

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Sit ins expand

February 8 – 14 1960:   students in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Durham, N.C., held sit-ins to demonstrate their solidarity with Greensboro students. Sit-in protests quickly followed in North Carolina cities such as Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville and High Point. The movement also gained momentum and spread to Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and even F.W. Woolworth stores in New York City.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

February 13, 1960:   led by Diane Nash and James Bevel, and inspired by Rev. James Lawson’s philosophy of nonviolence, 100 African-American students from Fisk University and Tennessee A & I University (now Tennessee State University) began a sit-in to desegregate public facilities in Nashville. (Tennessean article on Nash)

February 15 – 21, 1960: Edward R. Zane, a member of the Greensboro City Council, worked with students to reach a compromise. The Mayor agreed to appoint a committee to address the issue, and the protestors agreed to continue negotiations. Several Greensboro associations, including The Board of Directors of the Greensboro Council of Church Women, the YWCA and several ministerial alliances came out in favor of integration.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Richmond sit in

February 22, 1960: about 200 students, led by Frank George Pinkston and Charles Melvin Sherrod, marched from the Virginia Union University campus to downtown Richmond, shutting down the shopping district. Police arrested 34 students taking part in sit-ins and pickets at Thalhimer’s Department Store.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Greensboro Advisory Committee

February 22 – 28, 1960: the lunch counters at F.W. Woolworth and Kress stores reopened, but were still segregated. Greensboro Mayor George H. Roach introduced the Greensboro Advisory Committee on Community Relations representing the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants Association. Chairman Ed Zane worked to increase public support for integration of lunch counters, encouraging people to write and express their opinions on the racial situation.

By the end of February, the sit-in movement had spread to more than 30 cities in eight states.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Montgomery sit in

February 25, 1960: six students at the Alabama State College for Negroes, a state operated institution of higher learning for prospective Negro school teachers. along with 20 other students entered a publicly owned lunch grill in the basement of the courthouse in Montgomery, and asked to be served. Service was refused and the lunchroom was closed. “The Negroes refused to leave,” and police were called. 

February 29, 1960: Alabama Governor John Patterson held a news conference to condemn the sit-in by the six Alabama State College students.  Patterson, who was also chairman of the State Board of Education, threatened to terminate Alabama State College’s funding unless it expelled the student organizers and warned that “someone [was] likely to be killed” if the protests continued. 

March 1, 1960: over 1000 people marched from the Alabama State College campus to the state capital and back. After this march, the president of the university expelled 9 students identified as leaders and suspended 20 other students, under pressure from the governor’s office. As a result of this, students at the college voted to boycott classes and exams. 

March 2, 1960: Alabama State College expelled the nine student leaders of the March 1 courthouse sit-in.

More than 1000 students immediately pledged a mass strike, threatened to withdraw from the school, and staged days of demonstrations; 37 students were arrested. Montgomery Police Commissioner L.B. Sullivan recommended closing the college, which he claimed produced only “graduates of hate and racial bitterness.” Meanwhile, six of the nine expelled students sought reinstatement through a federal lawsuit.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Felton Turner

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

March 7, 1960: in reaction to sit-ins, 18-year-old Ronald Erickson abducted by Felton Turner of Houston beat him, and hung him by his knees upside down in a tree, after carving the initials KKK on Turner’s chest. Turner survived and escaped.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Atlanta sit in

March 15, 1960: Julian Bond, civil rights activist and future Georgia state senator, led more than 200 Atlanta area students in the first sit-in protest in Atlanta, challenging segregated public accommodations. They presented “An Appeal for Human Rights” to city officials. (Today in Civil Rights site article)

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Greensboro Advisory Committee

March 31, 1960: of the 2,000 citizen letters the Advisory Committee received, 73 percent favored integrated lunch counters. The hotly debated topic was constantly in the news. The Greensboro Record reported a letter signed by 68 white citizens urged that “service to all customers at the lunch counters in these stores be entirely on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, just as it is in other areas of these establishments.” Chairman Zane and the Advisory Committee held numerous meetings with representatives from F.W. Woolworth, Kress and other downtown businesses. All refused to integrate. On March 31, a disappointed Edward Zane met with student leaders to break the news.

By the end of March, the sit-in Movement had spread to 55 cities in 13 states. 

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Greensboro sit ins continue

April 1, 1960: students resumed sit-in activities at the Kress and F.W. Woolworth stores and began picketing on Elm and Sycamore streets. That evening at a mass meeting, more than 1,200 students pledged to continue the protests.

April 2, 1960: both the F.W. Woolworth and Kress stores officially closed their lunch counters.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Thurgood Marshall

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

April 3, 1960: speaking at Bennett College, NAACP legal council Thurgood Marshall urged attendees not to compromise. The protests strengthened after local leaders organized an economic boycott of the two stores.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

SNCC forms

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

April 16 – 17, 1960: Easter weekend, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organized a meeting of sit-in students from all over the nation at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. Leader Ella Baker encouraged students to form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “snick”) to organize the effort.

SNCC helped coordinate sit-ins and other direct action. From their ranks came many of today’s leaders, including Congressman John Lewis and longtime NAACP leader Julian Bond. At the conference, Guy Carawan sang a new version of “We Shall Overcome,” which became the national anthem of the civil rights movement. Workers joined hands and gently swayed in time, singing “black and white together,” repeating, “Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.”

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Nashville bombing

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

April 19, 1960: terrorists bomb the home of Z. Alexander Looby, a Nashville civil rights lawyer who defended students arrested in Nashville, TN sit-ins.  He and his wife survive. (History Makers post about Looby)

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Greensboro arrests

April 21, 1960: police arrested forty-five students (including Ezell Blair, Jr., Joseph McNeil, David Richmond and 13 Bennett College students) for trespassing as they sat at the Kress store lunch counter. All were released without bail.

In June 1960: when N.C. A&T and Bennett College students left the Greensboro for the summer, Dudley High School students took up the charge. William Thomas led the students as the protests expanded to Meyers and Walgreen.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Woolworth relents

July 21, 1960: F.W. Woolworth manager Clarence Harris met with Chairman Zane and the Advisory Committee in his store. He informed them that F.W. Woolworth’s would soon serve all properly dressed and well-behaved people. Kress manager H.E. Hogate was present.

July 25, 1960: F.W. Woolworth employees Charles Bess, Mattie Long, Susie Morrison and Jamie Robinson were the first African-Americans to eat at the lunch counter. The headline of The Greensboro Record read “Lunch Counters Integrated Here”. The Kress counter opened to all on the same day.

July 26, 1960: F.W. Woolworth desegregated. 

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Desegregation expands

October 17, 1960: in response to the sit-ins that had began on February 1, several chain stores announced on this day that they would desegregate their lunch counters in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and seven other southern states. This decision was arguably the greatest single victory for the sit-in movement, but many restaurants continued to segregate.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Sit ins continue

October 19, 1960: King was arrested along with students, eventually numbering 280, after conducting mass sit-ins at Rich’s Department Store and other Atlanta stores. The others were freed, but the judge sentenced King to four months in prison. Legal efforts secured his release after eight days. A boycott of the store followed, and by the fall of 1961, Rich’s began to desegregate.

By August 1961, more than 70,000 people had participated in sit-ins, which resulted in more than 3,000 arrests. Sit-ins at “whites only” lunch counters inspired subsequent kneel-ins at segregated churches, sleep-ins at segregated motel lobbies, swim-ins at segregated pools, wade-ins at segregated beaches, read-ins at segregated libraries, play-ins at segregated parks and watch-ins at segregated movies.

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters

Greensboro 4 Desegregate Lunch Counters
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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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