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Cities: Americus

Picketing at the Piggly Wiggly

Demanding integration and equal opportunities in Americus, black and white citizens joined together in protesting discriminatory hiring practices at the local supermarkets.  In this clip filmed on August 2, 1965, seven men and women protest outside the Americus Piggly Wiggly grocery store. They ask shoppers to boycott the store, reasoning that since the Piggly Wiggly supported itself on African American patronage, it should in turn support its patrons by hiring African American employees. 

Demonstrations were also held during the previous week, on July 31, 1965, at the local Kwik Chek and Colonial grocery stores in Americus.  The demonstrators were allocated a specific portion of the parking lot for protests, but they soon moved to picket in front of the store where they were arrested for trespassing.  A total of twenty-three individuals, mainly juveniles, were arrested in two waves during the day, and taken to the Sumter County jail. The store later dropped the charges. 

As a result of these demonstrations, the county welfare office released a statement announcing that their visits to black neighborhoods would cease until demonstrations ended.  Americus Mayor T. Griffin Walker also rejected the formation of a biracial committee to address and remedy racial tensions in Americus, as had been proposed by black citizens.

Like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Birmingham campaign, this is an example of how African American activists used the power of the dollar to pressure businesses to integrate. In retaliation, cities like Americus curtailed social services. Cultural institutions such as churches, schools, libraries, the Piggly Wiggly, and other grocery chains became battlefields where Movement activists and their detractors clashed.

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Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think the Americus marchers targeted the Piggly Wiggly? Consider who shopped there, where it was located, who owned it, and who worked there as baggers, cashiers, and managers. Read the story Lester Maddox and the Pickrick Restaurant in the Freedom on Film Atlanta pages and discuss how the boycott of the Piggly Wiggly was similar to and different from it.

2. Since the 1960s, how have groups of people used their financial wealth to eradicate or maintain racism?

3. What strategies did Civil Rights Movement activists in Americus develop in order to reconcile the black and white communities? What are the benefits of developing strategies for reconciliation, compassion, and understanding during conflicts?

Take it to the Streets!

Find out when your school, local library, public park, community swimming pool, church, movie theater, or grocery store was integrated. Interview a community member who witnessed or participated in this integration and then write about the highlights of this interview in two or three pages.

Writer: Lauren Chambers  
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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