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William P. Randall and the Ministers' Bus Boycott

This featured WSB clip from February 13, 1962, shows William P. “Daddy Bill” Randall speaking at a mass meeting (most likely held at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in east Macon). A prominent spokesperson and community leader for Macon’s black population, Randall was one of the city’s most influential civil rights activists. He actively served as a chief board member of Macon’s NAACP and as chairman of the Negro Citizens Negotiating Committee, an African American civil rights organization established in the city during the early 1960s. 

In early 1962, seven years after the Montgomery bus boycott led by the Reverend Dr. King and Jo Ann Robinson, Randall spearheaded a campaign to end segregation on city and county buses and to increase the employment of black American workers as bus drivers and mechanics. On February 7, in collaboration with several other African Americans--Walter Davis, the president of Macon’s NAACP; Ruby Williams, president of the City Federation of Women’s Clubs; and Rev. A. J. Shaw, president of Macon’s Evangelical Ministers Alliance--Randall mailed a letter demanding equal treatment to Linton D. Baggs, who headed the Bibb Transit Company which owned the city buses. Baggs and other city officials ignored their letter, prompting Randall to call for a bus boycott by the black community. Addressing the audience in this clip, he uses the religious rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement to urge them to keep fighting and refusing to ride the buses until equal rights have prevailed in Macon.

The boycott of the Bibb Transit Company officially began February 12, 1962, and it lasted for three weeks. Despite a series of court decisions in other Georgia cities that had declared segregated transportation unconstitutional, Macon’s African American residents still faced massive resistance to integration attempts. As was the case with the Albany students who attempted to desegregate the city's downtown Trailways bus station, arrests swiftly ensued when student protesters and ministers attempted to sit in the front seats of Bibb Transit's buses.

The boycotters enlisted Donald L. Hollowell, the renowned civil rights attorney who had served on the legal team for Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes, to file suits in the federal and state court systems on their behalf. Wallace Miller Jr., the attorney for the Bibb Transit Company, retaliated by imposing a restraining order on Randall and other leaders, but the boycott continued. On March 2, 1962, U.S. District Court Judge William Bootle ruled that the segregated bus seating laws were unconstitutional, and ordered the Bibb Transit Company to comply with his judgment. Two days later the Macon bus boycott ended.

The Macon ministers' bus boycott demonstrates the alliance of religion and politics in black southern communities. Many civil rights activists found justification for their battles against discrimination in Christian doctrine, following a tradition established by by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century leaders of the abolition movement. During and after the Reconstruction, southern African American churches produced charismatic, eloquent leaders, such as the Reverend Henry McNeal Turner, who pastored St. Philip's A.M.E. Church in Savannah, and the Reverend Emmanuel King Love of Savannah's First African Baptist Church, who were outspoken participants in the political debates that affected black people. Such clergymen founded schools and pooled their congregants’ financial resources to fund businesses, underwrite newspapers, and finance benevolent organizations for feeding the hungry, burying the dead, and giving medical assistance to the sick. 

Ordained African America ministers who made Movement history--and the list is lengthy: Andrew Young, Dr. King, Joseph Lowery, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Abernathy, to name a few--in addition to the Movement women who were raised up in the black church and became engines of civil rights activism, reflect this cultural perspective that the Christian's mission consists of making a haven in this world as much as preparing for a heaven in the next.

Discussion Questions

1. Read the Freedom on Film stories Integrating First Methodist Church in Americus pages and Integrating Tatnall Square Baptist Church in the Macon pages. Even though ministers in the 1950s and 1960s worked to desegregate bus transit systems, many American churches remain racially divided, and Sunday mornings are proverbially referred to as America's most segregated hours. Poll your classmates on the racial and ethnic mix of their places of worship. What does this say about the improvement of race relations in America since the 1960s?

2. Should clerics today use their churches, temples, synagogues, or mosques as platforms for political and social change? The U.S. Constituion calls for a separation of church and state. To what extent is this separation currently enforced in schools, government, and politics?

3. Read the statement about unsung activists on the web page of the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Project, and the story Fannie Lou Hamer and Anti-War Activism in the Freedom on Film Atlanta pages. Discuss the barriers faced by African American women activists (such as, in addition to Hamer, Ella Baker, Daisy Bates, Septima Clark, and Jo Ann Robinson) in gaining visible public roles and major responsibilities as leaders and community organizers during the Movement. 

Take it to the Streets!

Read Dr. King's last public speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop,'' that he delivered on April 3, 1968, during the Memphis sanitation workers' strike. Discuss how he commingles Christian rhetoric with a call for social change now.

Suggested Resources

Writers: Ebony O'Neal, Spelman College, and Professor Barbara McCaskill  
Researchers: Ebony O'Neal and Professor Barbara McCaskill 
Editors: Kamille Bostick, Christina L. Davis, Mary Boyce Hicks, Professor Barbara McCaskill 
Web Site Designer: William Weems

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