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A Movement Memory

Rep. Joseph C. Mitchell, of the Alabama State Legislature (D., 103rd District), spent his childhood years in Albany, Georgia, during the 1950s and early 1960s.  His family relocated to Mobile, Alabama, when he entered high school.  His mother, Julia Craig Mitchell, and his father, J. Christopher Mitchell, a science teacher and coach at Albany State University, opened their home as a safe house for activists. Mitchell participated in the     church-based mass meetings and rallies that the Albany Movement pioneered as a strategy for civil dissent.  Here, he recalls examples of how Albany’s black community responded to the racist treatment they faced:

Going to the movies meant we had to use a back stair to the balcony.  To buy popcorn or beverages, we had to go into the alley entrance to the back stair, put money through a hole in the wall and up onto a shelf.  Popcorn and beverages were passed through the same hole and usually most was wasted in the process. 

Black folks sat in the balcony and flipped popcorn onto the whites below. I remember refusing to throw my popcorn down on the white kids because the vendor had wasted most of it passing it through the hole in the wall. I remember making a conscious decision to never again buy something that was shoved at me.

I remember my mother confronting Mrs. Gray, the wife of the owner of The Albany Herald, who lived on the street behind our house (my father’s childhood home, 510 First Avenue).  Mrs. Gray had yelled at my brother and me for playing basketball on the dirt court on the lot next to our house.  I don’t remember what Mrs. Gray said, but I remember my mother saying: “Your children are niggers, too!!!” and she was as angry as I had ever seen her be at someone else.  I remember her tell me and my brother that we could and should play in our yard all we wanted.  

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