this WSB clip from Thursday July 29, 1965, the Atlanta segregationist Lester
Maddox makes a brief stop in Americus to
address a crowd of 250 white citizens in a local recreation center.
After a brief scene that shows an incarcerated African American man, white officers, and various scenes from Americus, Maddox appears. He begins by calling attention to his support of segregation in
the South. He asks the audience to speak out in favor of segregation
while refraining from violence. He minimizes the efforts of Civil
Rights Movement organizers by calling them "communist
agitators" and "government agents."
Maddox had become well-known as the owner of the Pickrick Cafeteria
which he opened in 1947. Rather than serve black citizens, he closed
his business in 1964 after the passage of the Civil
Rights Act that desegregated all public facilities. In 1966,
Georgia voters elected him governor. He served in this position
until 1971, when he became the state's lieutenant governor.
Maddox is a symbol of the effective ways in which segregationists,
like civil rights activists, also could galvanize popular support
through the media. He highlighted his down-home, ordinary, working-class
southern roots in newspaper columns and televised appearances, which
helped propel him to political and business success. He tapped into
many southern whites' fears of eroding states' rights, Communism, and
criminal black populations. To working-class whites who resented
the defeat of the Confederacy by
the Union during the Civil
War, or who felt threatened by the growing
economic and political power of African Americans, Maddox's support
of segregation may have at least assured them that to be white meant
to be superior to black people.
Resources (click here)
1. What does Maddox's term "agitators" say about his
sense of American identity? In the 50s and 60s, were other groups
besides black people excluded from the definition of American identity?
2. What changes did whites who opposed segregation fear? How did
pro-segregation whites organize to stop the Civil Rights Movement
3. Read the story on the Freedom on Film Atlanta page
Maddox and the Pickrick Restaurant.
Maddox used various symbols and rituals - a wishing well, baseball
bats, a mock funeral - in order to visually express his position
on segregation. What symbols and rituals did the civil rights activists
develop in kind? Hint: see the Freedom on Film Albany
4. In the 1930s, the African American poet Langston
Hughes wrote stories for The Chicago Defender in
which the homespun character he created, Jesse B. Semple, discusses
race relations in America and life as an ordinary black man in
Harlem. Listen to actor
Ossie Davis reading one Hughes's "Simple" stories,
and discuss how Jesse uses humor, common sense, and indirection
in order to talk about race, class, and gender.
it to the Streets!
Take a walk with your classmates and teacher around your school.
Identify as many symbols of your school and community that you can.
How are these symbols meaningful? If you could change any school
symbol or ritual, which one would it be and why? Write your thoughts
in one or two paragraphs.
Watch an episode with your classmates and teacher of one of the
following television shows from the 50s and 60s: Leave It to
Knows Best, I Love Lucy, or Bewitched. How
are American families in these shows depicted compared to those
in family sitcoms that you watch? What do the patterns that you
find say about how American identity has been represented on televison?
Write a short essay analyzing these patterns and the reasons for
Look at images and descriptions of African Americans and Latinos
in your local newspaper. What patterns in reporting about them do
you see? Do the reports reinforce stereotypes about these groups
(as lazy, dangerous, ugly, for example), or do they offer dignified
images? What do the patterns you find say about improvements in
racial attitudes since segregation? Write a short essay analyzing
these patterns and the reasons for them.
Writer: Lauren Chambers
Deborah Stanley and Diane Trap
Researchers: Lauren Chambers,
Aggie Ebrahimi, Courtney Thomas, and Professor Barbara McCaskill
Site Designer: William Weems
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