A BRIEF HISTORY
The Albany Civil Rights Movement was a revolution in the history of the city. It was the students at Albany State College, as it were, Carver Junior High, and Monroe High that aided in stirring the winds of change that has left us with the "Good Life City" as we now know and love. The good life for African Americans would never have been if these students and community activists alike had not come together to end Jim Crow.
The student story, for those at Albany State College, started in the fall of 1959 when Annette Jones, NAACP Youth Council Member, Yvonne Taylor, and Calila Bailey sat-in at the "Whites Only" table at the Arctic Bear, at the corner of Slappey and Oglethorpe Blvds. When the manager asked them to leave, because of a white patron's request, they refused. Instead, they remained and finished their meals at the outdoor table. In the next two years, 1960-61, Whites in the community committed a series of offensive acts against the students at Albany State College. Some of these acts included: drag racing through the main road that ran through the middle of campus; throwing urine, rotten eggs, and ice on students; even going so far as to hit a female student with a car to which the administration's response was that they refused to press charges; and white men making obscene phone calls and walking into McIntosh Hall, a female dorm, pretending to be looking for the main highway. Through all of these incidents the college chose to do nothing. The students at Albany State had to endure much in this epoch of time, but there was one final historical event that pushed many of them too far.
In January 1961, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes were the first African Americans to attend the University of Georgia, legally integrating the school. The students in Athens were in an uproar and local Albany station WALB and the Albany Herald Newspaper regularly expressed their desire to prevent integration of the university. In fact, what made many of the Albany State students angry was the comment about the University of Georgia going from a "Who's Who" to a "Who Dat!" Their comments clearly made fun of the broken english that was seen by Whites as part of southern African American culture. This angered so many students because it was a stereotype.
Leviticus Roberts, Olivia Blaylock, Miss Albany State, Lewis Carter, Weyman Patterson, Annette Jones, Melvin Webb, the Junior Class President, came together to compose the famous "Leonard Carson Letter." This letter spoke out against segregation in the town of Albany and set forth their desire to have the constitutional rights accorded all American citizens. This letter was a fork in the road for Albany State's soon to be Civil Rights Student Activists that wanted to effect change in the city. The Carson letter did something much more powerful, it created a firestorm of angry responses by Whites, from high school students to leaders in the community.
In fact, Albany State's President, Dr. William Dennis, in the Albany Herald, denounced the fact that there was a Leonard Carson at the college. He punished SGA by padlocking their office doors and suspending student government for the 1961 spring semester. Undaunted, many of the students continued in their efforts to end the injustices committed against them by the college and different political and social authorities throughout the city.
In October of 1961, Charles Sherrod and Cordell Reagon came to ASC's campus and began working with the students to organize voter registration drives in Albany, Georgia. But, it is not until November, "the magic month," that the students took everything Sherrod and Reagon taught them and put it to work. As part of Sherrod’s and Reagon’s Trailways Freedom Ride from Atlanta to Albany, nine students from Monroe High and Albany State College, that were members of the NAACP Youth Council, decided to test the new and improved Interstate Commerce Commission ruling that prohibited segregation in interstate travel on public transportation. Bobby Burch and some other students got past their fear and tested the ruling and were asked by the police to leave the "Whites Only" side of the Albany Trailways Bus Station. They followed police orders. The incident was reported to the SNCC office in Atlanta.
After the first testing of the ICC ruling, the Albany Movement was officially formed by members of different influential African American organizations such as: the Women's Federated Clubs, SNCC, the Masons, the Criterion Club, the Interdenominational Alliance, and the Baptist Ministerial Alliance.
Once the Albany Civil Rights Movement was formed, two students from ASC, Bernice Johnson and Annette Jones, were asked to serve as student representatives on the Program Committee of the Albany Movement.
It was not very long after this that the students took matters into their own hands again, with SNCC's guidance, and tried to integrate the Trailways terminal. This time, five NAACP Youth Council students were actually arrested in their attempt to integrate the terminal. Albany State College Student, Evelyn Toney, Monroe High students, Julian Carswell and Eddie Wilson, were the first small group to be taken to jail by Laurie Pritchett's men. Bertha Gober and Blanton Hall were arrested, later that day, for disturbing the peace when they tried to purchase tickets on the "Whites Only" side of the terminal. The other three students were bailed out but Gober and Hall refused bail, following SNCC's "jail no bail" philosophy. These arrests started the saga that took over the lives of African Americans and, for that matter, Whites, in Albany and changed the city and America.