featured WSB clip from February 13, 1962, shows William P.
“Daddy Bill” Randall speaking at a mass
meeting (most likely held at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church
in east Macon). A prominent spokesperson and community leader
black population, Randall was one of the city’s most influential
civil rights activists. He actively served as a chief board member
of Macon’s NAACP and
as chairman of the Negro Citizens Negotiating Committee, an African
American civil rights organization established in the city during
the early 1960s.
In early 1962, seven years after the Montgomery
bus boycott led by the
Reverend Dr. King and Jo
Ann Robinson, Randall spearheaded a campaign to end segregation on
city and county buses and to increase the employment of black
American workers as bus drivers and mechanics. On February 7,
in collaboration with several other African Americans--Walter
Davis, the president of Macon’s NAACP; Ruby Williams, president
of the City Federation of Women’s Clubs; and Rev. A. J. Shaw,
president of Macon’s Evangelical Ministers Alliance--Randall mailed
a letter demanding equal treatment to Linton D. Baggs, who headed
the Bibb Transit Company which owned the city buses. Baggs and
other city officials ignored their letter, prompting Randall to
call for a bus boycott by the black community. Addressing the
audience in this clip, he uses the religious rhetoric of the Civil
Rights Movement to urge them to keep fighting and refusing
to ride the buses until equal rights have prevailed in Macon.
The boycott of the Bibb Transit Company officially began February
12, 1962, and it lasted for three weeks. Despite a series of court
decisions in other Georgia cities that had declared segregated transportation
unconstitutional, Macon’s African American residents still faced
massive resistance to integration attempts. As
was the case with the Albany students who attempted to desegregate
the city's downtown Trailways bus station, arrests swiftly ensued
when student protesters and ministers attempted to sit in the front
seats of Bibb Transit's buses.
The boycotters enlisted Donald
L. Hollowell, the renowned civil rights attorney who had served
on the legal team for Charlayne
Hunter and Hamilton
Holmes, to file suits in the federal and state court systems
on their behalf. Wallace Miller Jr., the attorney for the Bibb
Transit Company, retaliated by imposing a restraining
order on Randall and other leaders, but the boycott continued.
On March 2, 1962, U.S.
District Court Judge William Bootle ruled that the segregated
bus seating laws were unconstitutional, and ordered the Bibb Transit
Company to comply with his judgment. Two days later the Macon
bus boycott ended.
The Macon ministers' bus boycott demonstrates the alliance of religion
and politics in black southern communities. Many civil rights activists
found justification for their battles against discrimination in
Christian doctrine, following a tradition established by by eighteenth-
and nineteenth-century leaders of the
abolition movement. During and after the Reconstruction,
southern African American churches produced charismatic, eloquent
leaders, such as the Reverend
Henry McNeal Turner, who pastored St. Philip's A.M.E. Church
and the Reverend
Emmanuel King Love of Savannah's First African Baptist Church,
who were outspoken participants in the political debates that affected
black people. Such clergymen founded schools and pooled their congregants’
financial resources to fund businesses, underwrite newspapers, and
finance benevolent organizations for feeding the hungry, burying
the dead, and giving medical assistance to the sick.
Ordained African America ministers who made Movement history--and
the list is lengthy: Andrew
Young, Dr. King, Joseph
Abernathy, to name a few--in addition to the Movement women
who were raised up in the black church and became engines of civil
rights activism, reflect this cultural perspective that the Christian's
mission consists of making a haven in this world as much as preparing
for a heaven in the next.
Resources (click here)
Printable Version (click here)
1. Read the Freedom
on Film stories Integrating
First Methodist Church in Americus
pages and Integrating
Tatnall Square Baptist Church in the Macon
pages. Even though ministers in the 1950s and 1960s worked
to desegregate bus transit systems, many American churches remain
racially divided, and Sunday mornings are proverbially referred
to as America's most segregated hours. Poll your classmates
on the racial and ethnic mix of their places of worship. What
does this say about the improvement of race relations in America
since the 1960s?
2. Should clerics today use their churches, temples, synagogues,
or mosques as platforms for political and social change? The U.S.
Constituion calls for a separation of church and state. To what
extent is this separation currently enforced in schools, government,
3. Read the statement about unsung activists on the web page of
the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Project, and the story Fannie
Lou Hamer and Anti-War Activism in the Freedom on Film Atlanta
pages. Discuss the barriers faced by African American women
activists (such as, in addition to Hamer, Ella
Clark, and Jo
Ann Robinson) in gaining visible public roles and major responsibilities
as leaders and community organizers during the Movement.
Take it to the Streets!
Read Dr. King's last public speech, "I've
Been to the Mountaintop,'' that he delivered on April 3, 1968,
during the Memphis
sanitation workers' strike. Discuss how he commingles Christian rhetoric with
a call for social change now.
Writers: Ebony O'Neal, Spelman College, and Professor Barbara McCaskill
Ebony O'Neal and Professor Barbara McCaskill
Kamille Bostick, Christina L. Davis, Mary Boyce Hicks, Professor
Web Site Designer: William Weems
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