On Tuesday, August 28, 1962, at the request of the Reverend
King and Albany
Movement leaders, seventy-five clergy and church members of
various races and religions traveled to Albany to
demonstrate in front of City Hall and show their support for the
Albany Movement. Some of the protestors came from other parts of
Georgia. However, the majority of the protestors came from states
outside of the South: primarily New York and Illinois, but also
Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey,
Texas, and Washington, D.C.
Praying, reading aloud from the Scriptures and singing
songs such as “We
Shall Overcome,” the protestors stood for
fifteen minutes on the sidewalk. As they read, Chief Pritchett walked
up and down the sidewalk and asked them to disperse “in the name
of decency and justice.” He also informed them that they will be
arrested if they continue their demonstration. As the protestors
remained standing on the sidewalk, Pritchett ordered his officers
to arrest them. Meanwhile, hundreds of white Albany citizens gathered
on the sidewalks and veranda of the New Albany Hotel, located across
the street from City Hall, to watch the protestors. When the police
marched the demonstrators to the "Freedom
Alley" behind City Hall, the crowd of white citizens whistled,
cheered, and clapped.
The demonstrators were charged with disorderly conduct,
creating a disturbance, congregating on the sidewalk, and refusing
to obey an officer. Bond was set at $200 cash each. The jailed protestors
reportedly underwent a voluntary twenty-four hour “fasting period”
before all but eleven posted bond and were released. In this WSB clip, two clergymen describe their involvement as they leave the jail.
Because it emphasized peaceful means as a way to obtain
social justice, and since its most prominent members such as Dr.
King were often religious leaders, the Civil
Rights Movement attracted participants, like the clergy in this
story, from a variety of faiths. The involvement and visibility
of clergy in acts of civil disobedience gave moral authority to
the Movement. Clergy who marched or preached in support of Movement
goals strengthened the argument that segregationists advocated hatred,
violence, and disorder: themes inconsistent with most of the world's
religions. Some of the most revered national documents, such as
of Allegiance, had united Americans under the banner of Protestant
religion. So it made sense that clergy would come together in the
Movement and hold the nation's leadership accountable for equality
for all of its citizens. Later, some activists would separate from
organizations such as the SCLC
because they found
them too restrictive.
Resources (click here)
1. How did activists in the Albany Movement utilize
spirituals in their protests? Go to the Eyes
on the Prize web site and find more spirituals that have
such socially relevant themes.
2. Read Bernice
Johnson Reagon's remarks on the Eyes
on the Prize web
site about singing freedom songs at mass meetings and marches.
Singers sang songs like "This
Little Light of Mine," the "I" or first-person
singular pronoun meant the group: the "WE" that together
would end racism. During the above protest in downtown Albany,
Rabbi Richard Israel, then the Chaplain of Yale University,
as well as a minister from Grace Methodist Church in New York
City, the Rev. Ralph Lord Roy, were both arrested. When they
were released from custody, Rabbi Israel told a reporter, "I
must remember that I was a slave in the land of Egypt. There
are other people today who are not totally free." (See
this WSB clip). By the early seventies, some black activists
questioned whether or not working across racial and religious
boundaries was effective. What do you think about this shift?
3. Another moment when a critical mass of northerners
came down to assist the activists was during the Freedom
Rides of 1961. The Supreme Court in Boynton v. Virginia (1960)
had ruled that segregated interstate bus and rail transportation
was unconstitutional. To test this decision, student members of
of Racial Equality left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961, to
ride through the South to New Orleans. What rationale did northerners
of various races and religions have for participating in the Movement?
Take it to the Streets!
Identify a current social issue that polarizes or
divides Americans in the United States. Research a week's coverage
of this issue in two or more of the following news sources: The
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The
New York Times, USA
Public Radio Online, and your local city paper. At
the end of the week, discuss patterns you see in the coverage and
reasons why the news sources might report on this issue differently.
Write a short essay analyzing these patterns and the reasons for
Writer: Courtney Thomas
Christina L. Davis, Deborah Stanley and Diane Trap
Lauren Chambers, Aggie Ebrahimi, Professor Barbara McCaskill
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