Like the eight other Georgia cities and towns featured on this
web site, the long civil rights history of Macon begins
in slavery. The
city's establishment in the middle of the state worked to its advantage,
and by the middle of the nineteenth century Bibb
County (Macon is the county seat) and the
surrounding region were centers for Georgia's cotton production.
Macon itself became a transportation hub linked by the railroads
and the rivers to Savannah, Darien,
and other Georgia ports.
to slavery in this area became international
news in 1848, when the Macon slaves William
and Ellen Craft fled
to Philadelphia. Ellen, who could pass for white, disguised
herself as an ailing white gentleman planter. With William
masquerading as his "master's" slave, the couple traveled
openly by carriage, passenger train, and steamship to the North,
rather than using the secretive routes of the Underground
During the late 1960s and 1970s, blacks in Macon invented more
direct strategies than flight in order to dismantle racist institutions. Although
some African American residents participated in angry confrontations
with the police, the city abolished segregation without
the violence or the national media attention that affected other
places such as Albany and Americus.
The majority of Civil
Rights Movement activists opted for consensus-building
and negotiations with city and county officials in order to
resolve disputes and implement affirmative
addition to an emphasis on desegregating public facilities, the
activism of this period was characterized by themes of improving
salaries and additional conditions for blacks, women, and other
minorities in the workplace, and
increasing their access to state and county jobs. Two decades
later, this advocacy helped to pave the way for the election in
1999 of C.
Jack Ellis, the first African American
mayor in Macon's 176-year history.
Since the Movement, the city has preserved the historical
and cultural legacy of civil rights activists.
Like the church-inspired freedom
music such as the
(rhythm and blues), and soul contributed to the
Civil Rights Movement by shoring up courage, inviting people to
laugh at adversity, inspiring hope and persistence, and reminding
those who sang or listened of the triumphs and disasters
during the long struggle for equal rights that had come before them.
The city's historic black movie palace and stage, the
Douglass Theatre, commemorates this heritage.
Music Hall of Fame also recognizes natives of the state: Ray
Little Richard, and James
Brown and Otis
Redding, two black artists whose songs
such as “Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud” (1968), "Respect" (1965),
"A Change is Gonna Come" (1965) contributed to the soundtrack
of the Movement. The
Museum of African American Art, History, and Culture, the
largest with this focus in the South, contains a permanent exhibition
of material objects, such as separate drinking fountains and whites-only
signs, that symbolize the Jim
Crow system which the city finally
destroyed in the late twentieth century.
Resources (click here)
Printable Version (click here)
Barbara McCaskill, Dept. of English, The
University of Georgia
Editors and Researchers: Christina L. Davis, Ebony O'Neal, Stacie
Walker, Delila Wilburn, and Professor Barbara McCaskill
Web Site Designer: William Weems
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