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Cities: Albany
Stretcher Arrests

This featured WSB clip shows several participants of the Albany Movement being taken to the Albany jail on stretchers after protesting in front of City Hall on Friday, July 27, 1962. On that day, a group of ten black demonstrators, led by the Reverend Dr. King, arrived at Albany's City Hall and lined up in front of police headquarters. Also leading the group were Dr. William G. Anderson and Slater King, president and vice-president of the Albany Movement. The group told Police Chief Laurie Pritchett that their purpose was to go before the City Commission and discuss integration demands. Chief Pritchett told them that they could go before the City Commission during a regular session and that a sidewalk was no place to discuss such demands. Dr. King then asked Ralph Abernathy to lead the group in a prayer. After Abernathy was finished, Pritchett informed the group that if they did not leave, they would be arrested. The group refused to move, even after Pritchett repeated his warning for a second time. After a few more warnings, the chief finally had the demonstrators marched into the jail.

Several hours after Dr. King and the other protestors in his group were arrested, a group of seventeen more demonstrators arrived in front of City Hall. This second group, led by Charlie Jones of Charlotte, North Carolina, consisted of sixteen blacks, including Rutha Harris of the Freedom Singers and the only white student, Bill Hansen, who was a field secretary of SNCC.

Here, the group of demonstrators, composed of college and high-school students, is kneeling in front of City Hall while Jones reads aloud a typewritten prayer. During the prayer, Pritchett impatiently paces through the demonstrators. After finishing, Jones tells the other members of his group to remain kneeling in “peaceful meditation.”

Pritchett orders Jones and his group to move three times. After they refuse, he arrests them. He tells the demonstrators that they can either walk into the jail by themselves or have “a free ride.” Ten of the demonstrators stand up and walk into the jail. The seven who remain kneeling are carried out on stretchers by Pritchett’s officers.

The demonstrators are acting out the key civil rights principle of nonviolent direct social action, which is also rooted in faith. King and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were inspired to use passive resistance by the work of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who led India during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s in its fight for independence from British colonial rule. In addition to its international roots, the Movement derived power and moral authority from cross-racial coalitions of activists. The activists who united across race and class modeled the "beloved community" that they were demanding of their fellow citizens.

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Discussion Questions

1. What was Dr. King's vision of the "beloved community"?

2. View the photographs from 1960 of SNCC members at Shaw University training for passive resistance, in the Duke University Libraries online exhibit entitled James Karales: Photographs 1956-69.  You can click on each image to enlarge them.  What was powerful and effective for the civil rights activists about passive and nonviolent resistance? What were their motives?

3. Read pages three and four of an oral history interview of Police Chief Laurie Pritchett's comments about Gandhi's nonviolent philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill University Library web site, Documenting the American South. How did the Albany police force benefit from responding nonviolently to the activists? What were their motives?

  Take it to the Streets!

Research the American peace movements of the 1960s. Compare them to the global peace movements that have emerged in the 21st century. Select one issue that both movements have in common and design a collage or poster that illustrates this issue.

Writer: Courtney Thomas 
Editors: Christina L. Davis, 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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