the end of this
video clip from December 14, 1961, ten black
people enter the whites-only lunch room of the Trailways bus terminal
The group is led by Norma Lee Anderson, the wife of Dr.
William G. Anderson, who was the president of the Albany
Movement. Since the late summer, SNCC members
Sherrod and Cordell Reagon had been organizing students
to hold sit-ins and kneel-ins. When they sit
down, a white waitress who had been serving customers immediately
leaves the lunch room. However, a black cook comes to the counter
and serves the ten activists coffee. When one of them sits next
to a white man at the counter, he moves.
Chief Laurie Pritchett and other officers
arrive at the bus terminal. Chief Pritchett tells the group that
they are all under arrest and then has them taken away to a police
wagon. The majority of the group allowed the police to take them
to the wagon, except for four protestors who had to be forcibly
dragged from the lunch room by the police. However, shortly after
the arrests, the police brought them back to the bus terminal and
told them they could go free if they intended to take a bus to Tallahassee,
Florida, instead of staging a sit-in.
The terminal management posted a sign that the lunch
counter was “closed for cleaning.” In addition, signs reading “cleaning
in progress” were hung by the rest rooms in the terminal.
During the sit-in, sixteen other blacks entered the
white waiting room in the Albany terminal, bought tickets for a
bus to Tallahassee, Florida, and then took seats. Although the Albany
police watched them, they did not interfere with them or attempt
to arrest them.
Sit-ins were some of the most dramatic nonviolent
forms of protest that the Civil
Rights Movement activists used. Television and newspaper images
of neatly dressed young men and women enduring insults, being spat
upon, and/or having food and drink poured on them--and not fighting
back--emphasized the injustice of racism, and also how the reality
of southern black people's lives differed from stereotypes and popular
perceptions of them.
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1. How did black people cope with the restrictions in movement
imposed on them by Jim
Crow laws? What difficulties did they encounter planning trips
by bus or rail throughout the deep South?
2. Watch the young man in the hat who leads the group. What emotions
are expressed by his posture and attitude?
3. What kinds of tactics (like the sit-ins) did young people bring
to the Movement that adults had not developed? Were adults in the
Movement reluctant to use any of the tactics the students created,
and if so, why?
4. How did students in the Albany Movement cope with being in jail?
Contrast this with the experiences of young black women in the Leesburg
Stockade, a few miles away outside of Americus.
(For information on the Leesburg Stockade, see an excerpt from
the article "Stolen Girls" by Donna M. Owens in Essence [June
2006, pp. 162-68, cont'd. pp. 218-219]).
5. Student sit-ins were held widely throughout the South during
the 1960s. Yet a little-known fact about civil rights history is
that such sit-ins occured in the 1940s and 1950s as well, and not
just in the South. Who initiated some of these earlier sit-ins,
were they effective, and how did these sit-ins pave the way for
the protests of the 1960s?
Take it to the Streets!
Study the discussion of What
Was Jim Crow? at the Jim
Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University.
During Jim Crow, African Americans were not allowed in whites-only
restaurants, yet they could be present all the same in the form
of material objects: salt and pepper shakers, cookie jars, skillets.
View some of these categories of objects in the Jim Crow Museum
at Ferris State University: Mammy, Uncle
Discuss what it meant that black people were objectified in this
way. Then talk about how groups of people are objectified in similar
ways; in other words, how are groups of people made to occupy
public spaces without their physical presence? Write a paragraph
explaining what you have discovered about this public treatment.
Writer: Courtney Thomas
Stanley and Diane Trap
Lauren Chambers, Aggie Ebrahimi, Courtney Thomas, and Professor
Site Designer: William Weems
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