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Cities: Albany

SCLC Leaders Visit Albany Pool Halls

On July 20, 1962, Federal District Court Judge Robert J. Elliot issued a temporary restraining order to halt demonstrations by participants in the Albany Movement. The document specifically named the leaders of the movement, including the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Dr. William G. Anderson, and Charles M. Sherrod. While those leaders did abide by the order, other Movement participants refused to halt their demonstrations. That same night, prominent Albany activist Reverend Samuel Wells went to Shiloh Baptist Church and gathered almost one hundred and sixty people for a demonstration. All who took part, including the Reverend Wells, were arrested.

Two days later, on July 22, 1962, Marion King, the wife of Albany Movement vice president Slater King, traveled to a jail in the nearby town of Camilla, Georgia, to take food to some of the people who had been arrested for the July 20 demonstrations in Albany. The guards at the jail ordered her to leave. Mrs. King, who was pregnant, carrying one child in her arms, and accompanied by two other children, failed to move quickly enough for the guards. The sheriff’s deputy cursed at her, and she responded that he could arrest her if he wanted to. The deputy then knocked Mrs. King down and kicked her until she was unconscious.

On July 24, Judge Elbert P. Tuttle of the U.S. Appeals Court for the Fifth Circuit overturned Judge Elliot’s order against demonstrations. The next day, two thousand members of Albany’s black community marched through the city’s streets to express their anger over Mrs. Marion King’s beating. Many of the teenage demonstrators threw bricks, rocks, and bottles at the Albany police, who did not commit any violence against the protestors. This demonstration represented the first time during the Albany Movement that the protestors abandoned their practice of nonviolence.

These displays of violence prompted Dr. King on July 25, to ask for a “Day of Penance” among the blacks in the community and to request that any further marches be halted. In this WSB clip, Dr. King, Abernathy, and Sherrod visited the city’s pool halls and bars to talk to blacks, especially the black youth. After gathering the group of youth around him, King reminds them of the goals of the Albany Movement and of the methods that should be used to achieve those goals. The leaders speak in Dick Gay's Cue Room. Two white detectives sent by Albany police chief Laurie Pritchett and television crews accompanied the three men.

This WSB clip shows an informal side of Dr. King that contrasts with his well-known national image as a speaker and leader. By visiting the pool hall, Dr. King recognizes the central role that youth played in the Albany Movement. Finally, we see how difficult it was for activists to maintain nonviolence in the face of constant bigotry.

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Discussion Questions

1. How did young people define the Albany Movement in response to their own needs?

2. Do you think that the young people in this clip are open to the guidance of Dr. King and Reverend Abernathy? Why or why not? 

3. Click on this link to Kodak's Powerful Days in Black and White web site.  Compare the young people in the 1962 clip from Albany, Georgia, that you have just viewed to the black youths in Birmingham, Alabama, who are taunting a police officer in this photograph taken by Charles Moore in 1963.  What is similar and different about the two groups of young African Americans?  What may have changed for them in the South in a year's time, between 1962 and 1963?  

4. Browse the photographs in Powerful Days in Black and White of segregationists and segregationist organizations.  What role does violence seem to play in these images?  On the other hand, what civil rights groups in the South advocated violence, and how did they justify this position?

5. What kind of language underscored the inferiority of African Americans and women, and how did members of these two groups resist this language?

Take it to the Streets!

Act out a scene from your neighborhood or school involving conflict: for example, bullying, name-calling, or disrespecting your peers. Then, write an action plan that explains how to respond to such conflicts in peaceful, nonviolent ways. When you have finished, act out the conflict again, this time using your action plan.

Work with a group of classmates to select four or five contemporary songs that are getting heavy airplay on one of your local radio stations. How do the songs depict men and women? How do they depict members of minority groups? What does the language of the songs suggest about attitudes based on differences of gender and color? Write a short essay analyzing one or two of these songs and the attitudes towards minority groups that the lyrics suggest.

Develop a photo-essay about young people in your school or organization.  Share a disposable camera with one or two classmates, and divide the pictures between you once they have been developed.  Assemble your photographs in a notebook or poster, making sure to include one or two paragraphs that describe the person in each photograph and that discuss how he or she contributes to a family and/or community.

Writer: Courtney Thomas     
Editors: Deborah Stanley and Diane Trap
Researchers: Lauren Chambers, Aggie Ebrahimi, Courtney Thomas, and Professor Barbara McCaskill 
Web Site Designer: William Weems   

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