|Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
|Mrs. Ollie Mae Brown
|Chude Allen (Pam Parker)
|Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer
|Mrs. Mary Harrison Lee
|Thomas Madison Armstrong
|Harry & Harriette Moore
|Paij Wadley Bailey
|Annette Jones White
|Rev. Samuel B. Wells
|Annette Jones White
Julian Bond (1940-2015)
As Remembered by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
August 19, 2015
Julian Bond — American Revolutionary
One of Julian Bond's heroes, Frederick Douglass, died at 77 in his Washington, D.C. home, cared for by a loving wife and comrade. NAACP Chair Emeritus Bond died at 75. He leaves his loving wife, Pam, at their Washington home, along with his blood and Movement children, like me, across the nation, who have learned much from his example on the Long March for Justice.
Douglass' (1818-1895) Long March began in the dangerous moral fusion abolition movement that led, in 1861, to the U.S. Government's organizing millions of Black and White families and soldiers to smash its sin and system of slavery in 1865. After a short period of exciting moral fusion advances in the 1st Reconstruction, Douglass watched with increasing frustration as southern states allowed racism to terrorize the new African American citizens with impunity. He joined the great cloud of anti-racism witnesses in 1895, and the next year the U.S. Government gave its full support to Jim Crow with its Plessy decision. Black southerners suffered egregious economic and social oppression for the next 58 years, until the NAACP knocked the legal legs out from under Jim Crow.
Julian was 14 when nine white men in black robes declared Plessy unconstitutional. The Warren court, and every southern politician, knew this was merely the first step in dismantling America's apartheid system of segregation and gross inequality in education, employment, housing and health. Taking on this 2nd Reconstruction necessitated a second war, less violent, with the U.S. Government's commitment to this struggle decisively less unanimous than the Supreme Court's.
The anti-racism nonviolent army of the south was led by citizen-soldiers who, like every army, were young. Julian Bond was 20 when he went to work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee — SNCC. Although SNCC had a few "elders" — Ella Baker, James Forman, and Robert Moses — in the main it was composed of young Black students from southern high schools and colleges. Hundreds of courageous young Black students from the south, joined by a few white southerners, served as the shock troops in the first battles, waged in lunch rooms, bus stations, and courthouse voter registration gauntlets.
Young Julian's political analysis, his serious demeanor, his understanding of White-Black southern history, and his command of English quickly won him the job of SNCC's Communication Director. Thousands of news releases and political analyses flowed from the SNCC office in Atlanta. Since its field secretaries were continually being arrested, beaten up, and threatened with death, and they had sworn to forego the right to self-defense, Bond's ability to alert national television and print media to where people were being attacked probably saved many SNCC activists and grass roots leaders.
When Black soldiers came home from from Vietnam home describing the atrocities they had seen the U.S. commit against the tiny country's non-white peasants, it was not long for Julian and SNCC to begin protesting these atrocities. Soon the Georgia Legislature, dripping with the money being spent by the U.S. military across Georgia, decided Bond's truth-telling could not be tolerated in the legislature and ejected him from his hard-won seat.
Without skipping a beat, Julian and SNCC took the attack on him as an opportunity for turning the southern U.S. anti-racism movement into a southern hemisphere movement against the racist policies of the U.S. and European nations toward native, non-whites. With brilliant organizing and media work, complemented by a good legal strategy, the Supreme Court forced the legislature to seat one of the youngest state representatives in the country.
Americans are the targets of a conscious dumbing down by Tea Party extremists, who are dependent on their twisted versions of world events and history. Their cruel policies would be immediately rejected if our kids were taught accurate history in our public schools. This problem led to Julian's full support of the Eyes on the Prize film. But it also makes it necessary, I believe, to preface any comments about his contributions to the anti-racism movement with a review of certain historical facts, to contextualize and provide an evidentiary foundation for the statements of praise and thanks I want to make about my beloved brother. I know Julian would have it no other way.
After the 2nd Reconstruction was short-circuited by the Wallace-Nixon-Helms-Rehnquist "Southern Strategy," Brother Bond, in 1998, was persuaded to lead 64 civil rights veterans who sit on the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Julian Bond never let us down in our efforts in North Carolina to revive SNCC's strategy of nonviolent direct action from the moral high ground. He gave us confidence to experiment with different ways to welcome our Brown and White sisters and brothers to the central struggle against racism. Yes, the "Black Power" slogan and its underlying theory was popularized by SNCC in 1966. But we knew it had been vulgarized by hostile national forces and media, and that SNCC itself always supported white allies, friends, and close comrades within the anti- racism movement.
In 2006 we began building the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Coalition and Julian attended several of these annual People's Assemblies. He encouraged our State Conference to transform our once a year actions at the People's House into once a week actions, which the media called Moral Mondays.
Now, Brother Julian, you get a well-deserved rest. You join the nine Emanuel Martyrs in the cloud of witnesses. We will keep alive your love, your humor, and your direct way of promoting justice, as we continue the Long March. You will be present within us as we walk in the NAACP's Journey for Justice through North Carolina on the way to D.C. to demand a comprehensive Voting Rights Act, that five Justices — liquidating history — eviscerated a couple of years ago. As the Journey passes ALEC's offices in Northern Virginia, a factory of poisonous boiler-plates of cruel laws for southern states to pass against the poor, disenfranchised, poorly schooled, LGBTQ, labor, immigrants, women, and every group of people excluded from accumulating capital in the avaricious economic-political system that is playing its trump card once again, you will be with us. We can hear you saying from the clouds: AMERICA. Shuffle the letters and you get: I AM RACE.
Chairperson Bond ... You are Present.
Julian ... Presenth!
© Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
Mrs. Ollie Mae Brown (1912-2006)
As Remembered by Jan Hillegas
February 4, 2006
This has been a hard few months for civil rights activists in Jackson. For me, the three people who've passed recently have all been closely associated with a building I've been working for years to have renovated into an educational center.
What's now usually known as the "COFO Building" on Lynch Street was the home of WOKJ radio station before it moved farther west, and Bruce Payne told us about its early history and how he took news bulletins up the street to Medgar Evers' office. Then Henry Kirksey had his print shop in the same building until he invited Bob Moses and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) to use it for a statewide office that was headquarters for the 1964 Freedom Summer.
After the COFO office closed in 1965, the building had other uses. In May 1967, when police lined up on Lynch Street and shot west, mostly over the heads of a few dozen young men, Benjamin Brown fell, fatally wounded in the back, near the corner of the cemetery and the Kon-Tiki cafe in the former COFO building. Mrs. Brown later told me how at the hospital, they locked her in a room by herself, so great was her outcry at Ben's death.
Ben Brown and I had been acquainted in the civil rights movement, and I met his mother, Ollie Mae Brown, sometime after his death. He was our main connection to each other because after Roger Smith of Delta Ministry moved away from Mississippi, I helped put together news releases that Bruce Payne and others would put on radio and the Jackson Advocate would print in the paper. Mrs. Brown and I requested and received the FBI files and the Jackson Police files about Ben's killing and did what we could to denounce the lack of prosecution and ask for justice from those who could make it happen or prevent it.
In 1997, we worked on a video called "30 Years More Without Justice," which was shown on Public Access and on Jackson State University's TV 23. When I taped an interview with Mrs. Brown, she talked about Ben's activities and the police harassment of him, and that she didn't let him know she was scared for him. She also talked about when she was young, black children "Couldn't do the things they do now." They didn't have cafeterias and school buses and had to walk five miles or more to school, so their hands would be freezing when they got there. She told how the white children and bus drivers would sometimes try to run the black children, who were walking, off into ditches alongside the road, into the muddy water, "and they'd be laughing," she said.
And she said she'd always wanted to vote. She and her husband would go down and pay the two dollars poll tax but when they took the test, they were told, "You don't qualify." But they didn't give you the two dollars back, she told me. "I went to register 10 or 12 times, but they said I didn't make it." She didn't get registered until 1965, when the federal registrars came here, but by the 1970s, she had become a manager of a polling place.
She told me how she taught all her four boys, "To work, taught them not to steal, and if they wanted anything from anybody, they asked them for it." And she never had trouble with any of them, she said, until Ben got in the Movement. She also said her sons "Could wash and iron as good as a girl, cause I didn't have any girls and I taught them just what girls could do." Except she said Ben could do most anything but he couldn't cook.
And I especially liked the story about in 1963 or 1964, Ben and his brother "Were walking some girls from the movies." The police shook them down and didn't find any weapons but told them, "You got that hair growing out from under your chin. Next time you come out on the street, I want it cut off or we're going to take our cigarettes and burn it off."
"Well, that upsetted me," she said, "and I couldn't sleep from then on. The next morning I got up early and went down and consulted with Chief Pierce. And I asked him when they passed a law for people to swing folks' hair from under their chin. And he said wasn't no law for it." And I said, "Well, two of your polices on beat on Lamar Street told my son Benjamin that they were going to swing the hair from under his chin." And I said, "I come to consult with you to tell them not to do it, cause he didn't have no white daddy." I said, "There's his daddy sitting over there. And if I don't make him cut 'em off and he don't make him cut it off, and I hope they won't try to swing 'em off cause I know he ain't going to let 'em," and I say, "If I be there, I ain't going to let 'em and we'll all just go to hell together."
"And from them on, [Ben] was harassed. And he told me, say they could kill me. He didn't say what police, but he told me they said if they ever got a chance, say 'we're going to kill you' so-and-so." And, as she put it, "After everything was over, that's when he got killed.... I guess that's the night they got a chance."
And so it was because of Ben that I knew Mrs. Ollie Mae Brown and met her fine family and some of her friends. Because of her persistence there's a Benjamin Brown Park today. And it's because of people like her that young people especially of the 1960s were brought up well and supported so that they would be strong enough to make a difference here and across the country.
In her last years, bedridden from a stroke, she would ask about my family and about local people we both knew, and she'd say she wished she could help with this or that. But she had already helped as much as she could, and we can all be glad to have known such a person who lived her life well, working for justice in the midst of her own anguish, with love for the good and the right.
Copyright © Jan Hillegas
Ivanhoe Donaldson (1941-2016)
As Remembered by Charlie Cobb
May 13, 2016
Remarks by Charlie Cobb at Ivanhoe's Memorial Service
The public part of Ivanhoe Donaldson's life — brilliant political strategist, one of the best organizers in the Civil Rights Movement, insistent and demanding on detail in whatever he did, or asked you to do, does not tell the whole story, or even most of the story we need to know and think about if we are going to think about him.
"The Movement" was at the center of his life and thought. Now, I'll leave it to each one of you to decide the meaning of "The Movement." I cannot pretend in 3 or 4 minutes to be able to stand here and offer you much that is substantial or even acceptable to the notions of anyone here about what the Movement was or is. This is especially true of the SNCC people gathered in this church, who, as Joyce [Ladner] here once said, "Will argue with a lamppost."
I could talk about Ivanhoe and the Movement — at length, if I had the time. Here, in this space, however, I will limit myself to just a few things. That the two of us were brothers is my starting point. That's personal as well as political. In a larger sense, the piece of the Movement we were most involved with — SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee e— was a band of brothers and sisters (and to complete this phrase we often used to describe ourselves, "a circle of trust").
Mississippi and SNCC's work there brought the two of us together. In December 1962 while working in Mississippi, I heard that some guy from up north trucking down food and over-the-counter medicines had been arrested in Clarksdale. His name was Ivanhoe. As I remember thinking, Ivanhoe — like in Sir Walter Scott? Who's named Ivanhoe? Who's gonna be coming next? Lancelot?
Anyway, the two of us wound up crisscrossing the Mississippi Delta together as SNCC organizers. I hadn't been in Mississippi very long myself, so the two of us were learning together how to move in that state during those murderously dangerous times, more than once being threatened in some little town or county at gunpoint. Discovering — and this is the real Movement story — the deep wells of strength in rural Black communities which we could draw on for sustenance and survival. Whatever we thought we were bringing to these communities as young SNCC activists, these communities gave us much more, starting with their own ideas about change and what they were willing to fight for. Not to mention the fact that they kept us alive. And if you really want to understand where the Movement's power lay, it was here in this largely ignored back country of the Black Belt South.
Ivanhoe's old car — I think he called it Betsy, it is worth noting as a measure of how little we had, did not have a floor. Instead, it had refrigerator racks. Dust boiled up inside and as I remember telling him we were more likely to choke to death on Delta dust than get killed by the Ku Klux Klan. He liked to sing on the road. I can't say he had a great voice, or even a good voice, but I sang along, figuring if he could, I could. That describes an important aspect of my relationship with him.
I once asked Ivanhoe, while traveling on some dusty Mississippi road, whether he thought it might be a good idea to have a gun in the car. "Not a good idea, Charlie," he responded. Some of that response was his always nearby practical side kicking in. Gunplay was something SNCC field secretaries needed to be very careful about, not romanticize or fanaticize about.
But something deeper was at play in his thinking. And that's why I have brought this up. Are you nonviolent? I asked him in this inquiry. His response to that question: "Well, I don't have the courage for that. It's not my way of life." The importance of nonviolence in the Movement, he went on to tell me, was that it introduces a discussion of values into the political discussion and struggle; discussion and struggle where anger and rage can often dominate. Very few, however, himself included, had the courage to accept nonviolence as a way of life. He went on to quote the Julian Bond couplet we all loved: "Look at that girl shake that thang. We can't all be Martin Luther King."
The question of values was at the heart of a lot of our conversations over the years. If you want to change the world, you have to figure out how to address and change the values that put the world at risk, was what he strongly felt. That, in the final analysis, was what the Movement was really about. The values that legitimize violence was near the top of his list of concerns.
I wanted him to write at least one book; urged him to think about that. He did outline out a few ideas on paper, and craft a few passages, but nothing more. I am sorry for that and before stepping away from this podium, I'd like to express one more idea in Ivanhoe's head that I am sure would have been included in whatever he wrote: The Movement did not change the world, but it certainly changed us.
Now, speaking very personally, in concluding and speaking as a younger brother will speak of his older brother in these circunmstances let me publicly confess that without Ivanhoe here — I don't mean here in spirit, or here in our hearts, of course that's true. He is here in those senses. But without Ivanhoe here, where we can wrestle with ideas, I feel less secure, less certain about where I'm going.
Copyright © Charlie Cobb
Ralph Featherstone (1939-1970)
As Remembered by Chude Allen (Pam Parker)
For Ralph Featherstone
He will not be there. His wife took his ashes to Africa 24 years ago. He did not want to be buried in this land of oppression; he wanted to return to his ancestors.
I am thinking about him as I return to Mississippi. Thirty years ago we met, both of us freedom school teachers in the Mississippi Summer Project, what everyone now calls Freedom Summer. Over a thousand of us, black and white, though mostly white, converged on Mississippi in support of the local freedom movement's attempts to break the racist stranglehold in the state.
I'm sure I wasn't the only white woman to fall in love with a black man during that summer of 1964. There've been things written about interracial sex, but little about love. I fell in love. Oh, we kissed and held hands, but ours was an innocent romance. The night before he left for the most dangerous part of that violent, racist state, I lay on his cot with him. He held me tight, kissed my face and I wondered if I would ever see him again. I knew he might die.
I could have died too. All of us faced danger. But everyone agreed that southwest Mississippi was the worst. The project house where he was going had already been bombed.
It has been thirty years since that summer romance in the freedom school; thirty years since we sat with other activists in the local black cafe eating our lunch and flirting across the table; thirty years since he held me close and then left to start a freedom school in southwest Mississippi. He did survive the summer, only to be killed six years later by a bomb. He'd only just married.
He wanted me to be the best freedom school teacher I could be. More important than being with him was that I prepare my lessons well. I'd been raised to serve a man. Women in my hometown quit their jobs when they married to serve their mates and raise the children. No man I'd known would have thought a woman's teaching was more important than him.
The racist whites were wrong. It was not black men's sexual prowess they needed to fear. It was rather the idea that men and women working together could change things. It was the dignity of human beings in the face of vicious discrimination, men and women standing up and saying no to state-sanctioned abuse.
In that powerful movement for social change I fell in love and if he were not dead and I saw him at this reunion, I could meet him with my head held high. I have stayed true both to myself and the struggle. There have been pitfalls, confusions and mistakes, but I have stayed true.
How I wish I could look him in the eyes and say thank you. Thank you for believing in me and thank you for never trying to use me. Thank you for the gentle love we shared and for showing me a new type of man who wanted women as partners in the struggle, not servants or playthings. I have carried you in my heart.
Copyright © Chude Allen
Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)
As Remembered by Wally Roberts, 2003
A Memory of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer
I first met Mrs. Hamer in June of 1964 at the Oxford, Ohio training session for the first wave of volunteers for the Mississippi Summer Project. I was one of the white volunteers, 23 years old. Having spent the previous two years as a teacher at a progressive private school in western Massachusetts, I was to be a coordinator at one of the Freedom Schools the project was establishing.
As things turned out, I was assigned to the Freedom School being set up in Shaw, Miss. For logistical reasons, however, we could not move into the town for a couple of weeks, so we stayed in Ruleville, Mrs. Hamer's hometown. We were put up with families who were involved in the Movement, and since I was to be the coordinator of the Shaw Freedom School, Mrs. Hamer invited me to stay at her house on Lafayette Street.
On our second or third night in Ruleville several of Mrs. Hamer's friends fixed a fried chicken dinner for those of us who were staying in the homes in Mrs. Hamer's neighborhood. We ate at Mrs. Hamer's house, though neither she nor her husband, Pap, were there. It was a delicious dinner. Afterwards, people drifted away, leaving me alone in the house. My mother and father had taught me to show appreciation when someone did me a kindness, so I started washing the dishes.
As I was finishing up, Pap came home, and when he saw me at the sink, he said angrily, "What you doin' women's work for?" I started to explain, but he turned his back and left.
A while later Mrs. Hamer came in, and when I explained what had happened, she said, "That's all right. Pap don't have many ways left of bein' a man."
I was simply stunned at the enormity of what she had said. At that instant, all the abstractions about racism, prejudice, and bigotry were crystallized in a real person whose life was being destroyed by this kind of hatred. It was the beginning of my gut level understanding of the degradation and psychological destruction that must be the inevitable consequence of racism.
But it was also a moment when I realized that here was another life that had been at least equally brutalized by the same system, yet Mrs. Hamer had triumphed over the anger and rage that surely had threatened to control her spirit and life. It was an epiphany for me, a moment that changed my life forever.
We moved to Shaw the following week, and I never saw Mrs. Hamer again in person, but I feel like I carry a little bit of her spirit with me. Freedom is a constant struggle. Make a joyful noise.
Copyright © Wally Roberts
Mrs. Mary Harrison Lee (1939-2016)
As Remembered by Thomas Madison Armstrong, 2016
Today, October 1, 2016, Mary Magdalene Harrison Lee a dear friend, a Freedom Rider, a foot soldier for peace and justice, and my hero, was laid to rest. Mary was married to Tougaloo College classmate Gene Lee.
I will miss Mary deeply because she stood with me as we made that high-level commitment to nonviolent direct action. Mary was a classmate at Tougaloo College. She was the mother of three beautiful children, Geno, Daryl, and Angel.
Please allow me to express to you just one of Mary's commitment to humankind: It was in June, 1961 when a real revolution was taking place within the confines of Tougaloo College, truly an oases within a sea of hate. It was in a dormitory room on the campus of this great Mississippi institution where a group of students and a representative of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, plotted the Freedom Ride participation of the first Tougaloo College students.
It was known that all of the Freedom Riders had come from states other than Mississippi. Indeed, the Mississippi power structure could not let us forget this fact. A speech was given by then governor Ross Barnett stating, "Our negras are satisfied with the way things are in Mississippi." Politicians and the Mississippi mainstream news media alike were expounding the idea that all black and white Mississippi maintained a dislike for the freedom riders. And that the Freedom Riders were a group of outside agitators.
Mary's disappointment was compounded by the fact that the Jackson Advocate, the largest and most read black-owned Jackson newspaper lent credence to Governor Barnett's black satisfaction idea. Tougaloo College students, especially those in that dormitory room knew that was not a true picture and we intended to prove it. We decided to become the "Mississippi Freedom Riders". Mary wanted to make a difference. She wanted to fight injustice wherever she found it.
We both believed, that based on Mississippi's prison reputation the freedom riders who were already in Jackson, Mississippi jails were going to be subjected to abuse and death if we, as Mississippi residents, did not get into the jails with them.
SNCC wanted four riders to participate on June 21, 1961. However one of our intended riders abruptly changed his mind about participating. Without a moment of hesitation Mary Magdalene Harrison Lee stood and announced "I'll go." This small group of Mississippians, Mary and I, Elnora and Joseph, (sister and brother from nearby Raymond, Mississippi) was about to blow the lid off that boiling pot.
On June 21, 1961 Mary and I awaken early. They were first in line for breakfast that morning. The more than three score of students in line with them had no idea that the two students sitting alone at a table in the corner was about to make history.
Later that morning, through an arraignment by SNCC, the Mother of the Jackson Civil Rights Movement, Mrs. A.M.E. Logan arrived on campus driving her already famous station wagon. One by one Elnora, Mary, Joseph, and I placed our luggage in the rear seat of the automobile and took our place inside to await the forever time-consuming ride into an unknown venture. We hardly spoke one word. Many words of comfort were provided by Mrs. Logan. Due to high anxiety those words of comfort were barely audible. As we left the, campus Mary turned to get a look, (final?) at that grand symbol of the college, the Gate.
Mrs. Logan drove us to within one block of the Trailways Bus Station in Jackson, Mississippi. We retrieved our luggage and waved goodbye to our hero. The block away from the station contained only two or three policemen. There were many more present as we reached the front door of the station. As we entered Mary and I quickly noted that there were men and policemen who had lined the wall of the station, all smiling. Why were they smiling?
We were arrested of course and not allowed to board the bus to New Orleans, LA.
That was Mary Magdalene Harrison Lee's introduction to that great protest known as the freedom riders. Rest in peace Mary. The world is truly a better place because of you.
Copyright © Thomas Armstrong
Harry and Harriette Moore (-1951)
As Remembered by Paij Wadley Bailey
June 23, 2006
In 1951, when I was about 11 years old, my mother, three sisters and I moved to Florida to be with my ailing grandmother, while my Dad and two brothers stayed home in Connecticut. Mrs Moore was my 6th grade teacher at George Washington Public School, the only segregated school I ever attended. She was also the only African-American teacher I had in my twelve years of public schools.
Mrs Moore did not complain or express outrage at having to teach us from old, tattered textbooks passed down to us from the white school. What she did do was teach us primarily from the few boxes of her own private books which she kept hidden under her desk. Her books were about African-American people who had made important contributions to the world — people like W.E.B. DuBois, and Mary McLeod Bethune. Mrs. Moore taught us about the freedom fighters Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. She read stories to us by Zora Neale Hurston and poems by Langston Hughes, and she shared her Ebony Magazine articles about black history.
This learning was deep and personal; it was important because it was about people like us, and it was secret. She didn't have to tell us not to tell anyone about these books. We knew they were dangerous when she appointed one of us to be a look-out person at the window so if the Superintendent of Schools came on one of his unannounced inspections, he wouldn't catch us using them. These books — their physical existence and the stories they told — taught me about unspoken truths, secrets and lies.
We all knew — and knew not to tell anyone — that Mrs Moore and her husband were key people in starting a chapter of the NAACP. Now, at the beginning of a new century, an NAACP chapter sounds pretty tame, but I am talking about Florida in 1951 when it was dangerous for more than three black people to get together except in church. Just how dangerous was forcefully taught to us on the day toward the end of the school year when Mrs Moore, her family, and their house was blown up.
A bunch of us, ages six to fifteen, were walking past the Moore's house on our way to school when we saw what rmained of them: bits and pieces of bodies strewn about, legs without feet, an arm, half of a head. The one thing standing on their property that morning was a newly erected chain-link fence being guarded by two white men who shouted warnings to us that no one was to touch anything and that we'd better get our "black asses to school."
When we arrived at school that terrible day, another African-American teacher met us and we spent the day talking about what had happened. She reminded us that not all white people were mean-spirited, and we sang hymns, witnessed our love for Mrs Moore, and tried to remember what she would say about fear. We wept, we moaned, we stared open-mouthed at the air, and by the end of that day, our childhood was over.
My sisters and I were visitors to Florida. Our public schooling had begun in West Hills, CT, a town whose one industry — the Winchester Repeating Arms factory — was booming because of WW II. Our school was integrated when ten African-American men and their families, including mine, moved from the south.
Having spent our earlier years in the north, my sisters and I were not so well trained in southern ways of keeping quiet; we were ignorant about "knowing our place." After the assassination, I raged about wanting to fight every white child I met. About three days after the explosion, a white friend of my grandmother's took my mother aside and warned her that my anger could be dangerous. By the end of that fateful week, my mother had us packed up and headed north, home to Connecticut.
I trace many huge and important lessons to that time, including the still familiar perversion of truth which feels branded onto my heart: "Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me." This extremely dangerous lie might have been partially believed by NAACP members like Mrs. Moore, who used words/names like "justice" and "equality" at their meetings. For her, "justice" and "equality" were qualities of life to which we were all entitled.
To advocates of racial hatred, these names threatened their domination based way of life. For everyone, these words were clearly the reason that Mrs. Moore and her family were assassinated. I didn't have to read a lot of books to understand, and no one had to remind me again, that words — names — and the power to use them, could not just hurt, they could, and did, kill.
Copyright © Paij Wadley Bailey
William Moore (?-1963)
As Remembered by Muriel Tillinghast
Remembering the Mailman's March of 1963
Getting the article on William Moore gave me the push to finally write what little I knew about him for posterity's sake as well as my own. I am very appreciative of getting the article on him. Then as now, I thought of him as a rare kind of person, maybe one too trusting, but strong in his beliefs. I like that. The Movement was sprinkled with similar souls, people of greater humility and humanity thrust among the rest of us — all of whom were special people in my regard.
When we were in NAG (the Nonviolent Action Group), The Hilltop, the university's newspaper office, became a satellite office for us frequently taken over by our arguing, planning and strategizing as we were wont to do endlessly. On this particular day of that particular year, a call came in. It was from Bill Moore and I took it. As memory serves, there were the on-going discussions and debates between Carmichael and the newspaper's editor, so they were pre-occupied and somehow I was near a phone and open to conversation. Bill Moore introduced himself and told me about his plans to walk south. He knew about our work in D. C; we had probably bumped into each other, one way or another, through NAG's work along Route #40.
In a conversation I can barely recall, we settled into an easy chat, so some points of familiarity must have been hit and mutually acknowledged. We talked for a good while. We talked about the danger of his journey south because that is how we talked then, keeping each other alert and on point. And then, the words finally ran out and our conversation came to the end. He was moving on out the next day as I remember, leaving Baltimore and he was saying "good bye" to his Movement friends in the North to start his journey alone.
Why alone? Maybe no one else that he immediately knew wanted to go along. For them, maybe the danger outweighed the good to come, and so there were no takers. As was the norm, I am sure that we said that we would reconnect when he returned home after he delivered his letter to Ross Barnett, then Mississippi's governor, a man I held in the lowest political and personal esteem. We thought that he would return; I do not believe that we ventured into discussion about his possible fatality, but be assured, that thought was ever present, if unspoken. We were in that kind of work and it was that kind of America. So in finality, I hailed him on and he was gone. The rest is history as incomplete as it is.
I have often thought about our chance conversation and his great sacrifice. There were many sacrifices for the Movement in those days. Bill, as a white Brother was a man of vision and courage. He was steeped in the hope that the country was better than it was, that people were actually better than their furor indicated they were prepared to be and that in their Christianity, they could be shamed in recognition of their sinning against their own beliefs. If nothing else were to come of this, then a more civil behavior was a hope. Having been raised in the South, he knew first-hand that white people were fundamentally steeped in and misguided on issues of race. Maybe by his example, just maybe, a gateway to change could be opened, to help some reconsider and turn things around to do better.
When I learned that he was killed, I wasn't surprised, but I was dismayed. This was undoubtedly another loss to us in the Movement. We were young and this just fired us up more, made us resolve even more strongly our challenge to the system and weighing its costs as our Movement was officially nonviolent.
Being shot in the back is a cowardly act anywhere. But, the South had long given itself over to wanton acts of murderous cowardice to shut up voices they didn't want to hear. Nonetheless, to have lurked in the night, waiting for a single, sign-wearing, foot-tired man, walking in silence on his one-man mission tells us several things about the man, the killer(s), and the country. Bleeding to death on a lonely highway in the Alabama night at the hands of at least one killer, Bill Moore's family lost a wonderful, caring husband and father. He was irreplaceable. For the Movement, he was a hero and a martyr, underscoring the blood and loss racial change was to cost going forward.
We know that Bill had walked a long way by foot and had been seen my many, so his message was getting out. His letter to Barnett never arrived; it probably went the way of the "Eat at Joe's" sign torn from the rear sign that he carried. We know that Bill had grit and determination, personal strength and perseverance. His journey was a long trek and he was almost there. His walk tells us that he believed in the best aspirations of democracy and he showed us the distance we, as nation, have yet to travel.
He was a worker, an average guy who thought for himself, who was unafraid to take on the big tasks which civil rights work certainly was. Bill Moore could bear the weight of our many hopes against the grain of America's evils even as a single individual. William Moore, a white, working-class, southern man — one has to admit — he was extraordinary.
The situation also gives us an indication of the low level of thinking and action anti-racism workers frequently encountered. The culprit was never found — probably never even searched for — and that, too, is a tragedy. William Moore lost his life in the cause not only of others and for himself as a true American, to save America from its own rot.
And, of the hand that fired the gun to bring this man down in the dead of night, the nasty deed. ... It championed violence over the hope of peaceful change, backwardness over forwardness, criminality over civil behavior, murder as an appropriate way to shut out and shut up people in a country long given to this as a norm to control people of color, particularly Black people. Over glasses of whisky, moonshine or beer, these reprobates probably cheered each other for a deed well done whether or not it was on the sly because their vision of yesterday was better than their vision of tomorrow, though tomorrow is coming anyway.
Copyright © Muriel Tillinghast
Albert Turner (1936-2000)
As Remembered by Bruce Hartford
The son of a Perry Country Alabama farmer who owned 111 acres near Marion (now the Emerson Turner Memorial Park), Al Turner was a bricklayer and graduate of Alabama A&M. On Selma's Bloody Sunday in 1965 he was one of the leaders of the Voting Rights March that was attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In honor of his courage and dedication to the Movement, he was chosen by SCLC to lead the mule train that carried Dr. King to his funeral, and for many years he was state director for SCLC in Alabama.
In the summer of '65 we were doing voter registration and desegregation work in Crenshaw county just south of Montgomery. One Sunday we were conducting a nonviolent training session in a small one-stopsign town named Brantley. A mob of fifty or more klansmen (I assume) roared up in trucks and cars, jumped out and attacked us. We managed to reach our ride, a VW "beetle," and they chased us all the way back to Luverne the county seat.
Al was our project director and we called him straight away in Marion. "We'll have to go back," he told us. Not "you have to go back," but "we have to go back." The next morning he was down in Crenshaw and accompanied us back to Brantley where we met with the local leader, a Korean War veteran, and the few others who were not afraid to be seen with civil rights workers. We had not been there more than 20 minutes when a car skidded up to the cabin in a cloud of red dust. A Black woman jumped out, she was the Mayor's maid she told us. He had sent her to warn us out of town. He was calling out the mob, and we'd better stay out if we knew what was good for us.
"You tell the Mayor that if he wants us, he can find us here," Al told her softly. He went out on the porch and sat down in an old rocking chair facing the street. Slowly he rocked back and forth, back and forth. Cars and trucks filled with hard-eyed white men, the same ones that had chased us the day before, drove at low speed past the house. They stared hard at Al and the rest of us while he rocked back and forth, back and forth. They drove by again, and again, and again, and Al just slowly rocked back and forth in that old rocking chair.
After awhile, it seemed like years but was probably no more than half an hour, they stopped driving by and they didn't come back. Next voter registration day, we carried 20 to 30 Brantley folk up to Luverne to try to register. And no one ever forgot the day that Al Turner took his ease in that old rocking chair on a Brantly porch.
Copyright © Bruce Hartford
Corene Watkins (1912-1981)
As Remembered by Annette Jones White
The Avon Lady
[In the 1950s and '60s, Avon Ladies — both Black and white — sold womens cosmetics, perfume, skin-care, and other products door-to-door. For house-bound women in isolated rural areas and communities they provided a social connection to the outside world, community news, and companionship. As Avon sales representatives, they were self-employed entrepreneurs. Since they were paid by commission on sales, no store building was required, and they had no assigned territory, Avon was one of the very few opportunities for financial independence open to working class women without college degrees or significant start-up capital.]
She was born August 25, 1912 in Terrell County, later known in Southwest Georgia as "Terrible Terrell" because of its blatant mistreatment of its Black citizens. She later made Albany, Georgia her home, but she continued to worship at Jordan Grove Baptist Church in Leesburg, Georgia and never changed her membership.
Her name was Corene Watkins, and all of the children in our neighborhood, including me, called her "Miss Corene" and called her husband "Mr. Isaac." She liked children, and children liked her and the way she interacted with them. I do not remember not knowing her. She was a friend of the family and lived near us, so close that we could see each other when we sat on our front porches; so close that if we talked loud enough, we could hold a conversation.
She always appeared to be in a good mood, waving and smiling as she came and went in her snow-white uniform and shoes. She was a domestic worker who also was a seamstress in the neighborhood. A good neighbor, she visited and fed the sick, swapped recipes and did whatever she could to help those in need. Friends and neighbors knew that she was dependable and that she put her heart and soul into whatever she did. But who would have thought that she would devote so much time and energy to the struggle for equality in Albany when it began publicly in 1961 or that she would be so deeply committed to that struggle?
She spoke out frequently against discrimination and Jim Crow laws, once in response to negative comments made to her by her White employer. She was fired because of her comments. After awhile, she found work as an Avon representative.
Once The Albany Movement began, she was always found in a seat near the front of whatever church was hosting a mass meeting. Her strong voice could be heard saying "amen" and singing hymns or Freedom Songs over the voices of others throughout the church. It was clear that she was committed to the cause and to nonviolent direct action because her face was like a mirror reflecting all she felt about what she and other activists were doing.
She was a part of The Albany Movement from its beginning to its end. Because she had been fired, she had more time to devote to The Albany Movement. She was able to sell Avon products on her own time schedule while encouraging clients, friends and neighbors to register, vote, attend mass meetings and join the struggle to end segregation and discrimination.
She was known and well-liked by the members of SNCC who had come to Albany to set up a voter registration project in Southwest Georgia. She developed a certain rapport with many of the young Albany activists and many of the SNCC student volunteers who came to Albany from colleges and universities around the country during the summers of 1962 and 1963. She considered them to be a godsend and was grateful that they were giving so much of themselves to help Albany and Southwest Georgia. They affectionately called her "The Avon Lady" because she frequently gave them miniature samples of the products.
When she was not near the front of a line of protest marchers, it was usually because she was already in jail, arrested for a previous march to City hall or some other targeted area. She always marched — I should say strutted — with pride and purpose, holding her head up and her shoulders back. When she knelt on the sidewalk or on the steps at City Hall, her voice was steady and her prayers were fervent.
She participated in many marches to protest unjust actions and laws in Albany, including the following:
She supported the boycott of downtown stores whose executives refused to hire Black people in jobs other than menial ones or to remove other policies of segregation and discrimination; she supported the boycott of city buses when Ola Mae Quartimon was arrested for refusing to move from the front of a bus to the back, and she supported the boycott of the Albany Herald newspaper for its racist attitude towards the Black community. When she could, she also contributed food to help me provide breakfasts and dinners for 14 SNCC volunteers during the summer of 1962.
She marched and was arrested so many times that police Chief Laurie Pritchett knew her on sight and by name. He would often pick her out of a large crowd and arrest her first saying with exasperation, "Come on, Corene." They would talk back and forth as he arrested her. She said he once asked her., "Corene, don't you get tired of marching and going to jail?" Her answer: "No, Chief. You'll get tired of putting me in jail before I get tired of marching for freedom."
Whenever she marched, she would be well-prepared for a two or three day jail stay. Concealed on her person would be money, small containers of deodorant and tooth paste, tooth brushes, soap, disposable wash cloths, combs, small hard candies, chewing gum and other items, all of which she shared with other jailed protestors. She marched so many times and spent so much time in jail that people in our neighborhood called her Miss Albany Movement.
During the hot and humid months of summer when she marched, she always carried a church fan; that fan became her signature. There is an unnamed picture of her on her knees, fan in hand, "praying for a city in crisis" with a group at City Hall just before they were arrested. (Jenkins, Mary Royal. Open Dem Cells: A Pictorial History of the Albany Movement. Columbus, Georgia: Brentwood Academic Press, 2000, p.55.)
Although her name is never mentioned by mouth or caption, she appears in brief spotlight shots in television documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement in general and in Southwest Georgia. For example, in part 4 of "Eyes on the Prize" entitled "No Easy Walk" (1962-1966), she is seen in a close- up shot at a mass meeting as she smiles and sings with the congregation as they leave the church on their way to march downtown. They are singing we shall go to jail, one of the verses of "We shall Over-come."
Later, she is seen holding her fan while she is being singled out from the group being arrested. She is smiling as she rises from her knees, and the arresting officer (who recognizes her) beckons her to him saying, "Come on." He also makes a comment about her smiling. In "Freedom Songs of the Civil Rights Movement," she is seen briefly and up-close singing with the congregation at a mass meeting. I think she is in those documentaries because something about her caused the eye of the cameraperson to see/feel the depth of her commitment, the freeness of her spirit and the abundance of her energy — her countenance — to such a degree that he or she was moved to allow the eye of the camera to linger on her face and try to capture that countenance on film.
In 1981, I went to Albany for the twentieth anniversary celebration of The Albany Movement. Her absence from the celebration was duly noted and those of us who came from out of town asked questions about her. Bernice Johnson Reagon and I were told that she was ill and unable to leave her home. By then she had moved into an apartment not far from her former house. Rev. Samuel B. Wells offered to drive us to her apartment. He told us that he stopped by to check on her and pray with her whenever he could.
She was happy to see us and disappointed that she was unable to take part in the anniversary events. During our visit, she asked Bernice to sing a song for her, and Bernice sang "Precious Lord." after which Rev. Wells said a special prayer for "Sister Watkins," as he called her. Visiting her was very special for me, and so is the memory of it. That visit was the last time that I saw her.
I shall never forget her and the contributions she made to help eradicate discrimination and segregation in Albany and Southwest Georgia. Several years after her death, as a tribute to her, I made sure that a brick containing her name was placed at the Albany Civil Rights Institute among the bricks containing the names of Albany Movement activists. Although she never sought recognition, I think she is smiling and liking the idea of once again being a part — a lasting part — of The Albany Movement.
She is survived by her only child, eighty-five year old Rev. Henry Marshall of Newark, New Jersey.
Copyright © Annette Jones White
Rev. Samuel B. Wells (1916-2005)
As Remembered by Annette Jones White
February 20, 2013
Ten days before Christmas in 1916, Samuel Benjamin Wells was born. He grew up in my home town of Albany, Georgia in Dougherty County where he was destined to become a guiding force in the lives of many in Albany and in other areas of southwest Georgia. He and his wife, the former Bessie Blakely, welcomed four children into their union: Cynthia, Samuel Jr., Sherman, and Deborah.
I did not meet Rev. Wells until 1957 when I was a junior in high school. One day while I was visiting a friend, Rev. Wells bounded up her front porch steps wearing one of the biggest and brightest smiles I had ever seen. After my friend and her family greeted him warmly and invited him in, he looked at me and asked, "And who is this young lady?" My friend's mother introduced us and said he was a deacon at Mt. Olive Baptist Church Number II. He immediately asked me what church I belonged to, if I attended regularly and if I participated in church activities. He was energetic, friendly and outgoing, asking questions about my classes at school and about my plans for the future. What impressed me about him was that he really listened to what I had to say.
I did not see him again until October, 1961 when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came to Albany and opened an office. I saw him more and more after the beginning of The Albany Movement — November, 1961 — an organization formed by the coming together of SNCC and other civic groups in Albany. I remembered him right away. He appeared to be even more energetic than before. He was one of the first ministers to accept and welcome SNCC and its policies (community organization, voter registration, direct action and jail no bail) into Albany's Black community. He was excited about SNCC's intentions to start a massive voter registration project in southwest Georgia and he was excited about The Albany Movement and its intentions to launch a full scale battle against segregation and racism in Albany.
By then, he had become a minister. For twenty years he served as the pastor of Blue Springs Baptist Church in Sylvester, Georgia, a town near Albany, in Worth County. By all accounts, he was well-liked and respected by his congregation to whom he delivered dynamic sermons in his unique down to earth style.
I remember how he reached out to young people and how he and I often talked. A WW II veteran, he once told me that not only was he disturbed about the discrimination and segregation that Black people were subjected to in Albany, but he still was disturbed about the way he and other Black veterans had been treated when they came home from the war (That was during the time when Black soldiers were often beaten and harassed by White racists if they appeared in public in uniform.) He said that he resented the fact that after having fought for his country, he came home and was treated like a second class citizen.
He gave me the impression that he had been waiting for the right time to take a bold step against segregation and discrimination. In 1961, SNCC and The Albany Movement became the channels through which he would work for civil and human rights in Albany and southwest Georgia. Rev. Wells was fired up and good and ready to be in the thick of everything that the Albany Movement advocated.
I remember him as a self-motivated man of vision with many talents that he used with intensity and purpose in everything he undertook. He was an excellent organizer and planner who understood the importance of keeping records. And keep records he did, with an artistic flair, whether in journals, scrapbooks, posters or note pads. He canvassed tirelessly searching for citizens who were not registered to vote. He coordinated schedules for them to go and register and he arranged transportation for them. He also arranged for transportation for voters to and from the polls on election days. Very often, he drove future voters to register and he drove voters to the polls.
He was everywhere, always in the thick of things, urging the crowds at mass meetings to do more and showing them how by example. He was efficient in managing all of his civil rights activities — voter registration, marches, pickets, sit-ins, prayer vigils, youth counseling, recruitment of mass meeting attendees, preaching encouragement to the "choir" and taking up the slack wherever needed. His versatility and adaptability allowed him to be a part of everything that was going on in The Albany Movement.
In January of 1962, Albany State College student Ola Mae Quartimon was arrested when she sat at the front of one of Albany's city transit buses and refused to move when asked to do so by the driver. Albany's Black citizens boycotted the bus company out of business. Rev. Wells was among those who helped organize and drive in car pools to transport people to and from work until the bus company resumed operation on a desegregated basis.
At a mass meeting in July, 1962, it was announced that there was a federal injunction against specifically named leaders of the Albany Movement and Dr. King forbidding them to participate in mass demonstrations. Rev. Wells, a smart and quick thinker with the ability to get to the solution of a problem right away, spoke up. "I don't see my name on that injunction," he said. Right then and there, he led a march from the church to City Hall where he and over 160 others, including his teenage daughter, were arrested. He had already led marches (some in which he was physically abused) that led to arrests so he was no stranger to the jails in Albany.
In late summer of 1963, Rev. Wells rescued me and other SNCC workers from certain arrest. Most of the college students who had come to Albany in spring and early summer as volunteers in SNCC's Summer Project had gone back to college or to other southern states to volunteer. The Albany Police Department was trying to defuse SNCC's effectiveness by arresting all of its workers. They had arrested all but 13 of us who were scattered around Albany. One day around 6 pm, I received a call at home informing me that SNCC's office, on Madison Street, was almost surrounded by police cars and officers who appeared to be waiting for an order to arrest the workers inside. I immediately hurried to SNCC's office.
I saw policemen in parked cars with flashing lights and policemen driving cars up and down the alley that ran on the side of the duplex in which SNCC's office was housed. When I entered the office, the four workers asked me why I had come. I told them about the call I had received, and they urged me to go back home. I told them that I could not do that because they were all volunteers who had come to Albany to support us in our struggle for human and civil rights and that as an Albanian I could not let them face police chief Laurie Pritchett and his men alone.
Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door. We froze and a worker yelled, "Who is it?" The reply sounded like "Pritchett." With hearts pounding and breaths rapid, we stood staring until with relief we heard the reply, "It's Richard, Richard Morris." We let him in and were glad to see him, but he did not stay.
After about an hour, a call came from an Albany Movement leader who said that arrangements were being made to get us to safety; but first, we had to get ourselves to a certain nearby safe house. I devised a plan that got us there, but it was complicated, took a long time and involved taking all of the office files, via the back door, to the lady next door, dressing in dark winter coats, (on hand from the Friends of SNCC in New York to be taken to Mississippi), darkening White faces with soot, skulking in the dark across neighbor's back yards, and cowering from a barking dog whose barks caused its owner to turn on floodlights that stayed on for nearly an hour while we sweated, crouched behind a fence, waiting for the lights to be turned off. Our fears mounted and our nerves were on edge as we waited while watching the police train their spotlights on the office each time they drove up and down the alley.
When we reached the house, I still felt that the police might burst in at any minute. We were given food and then, to prevent my mother from worrying when I did not come home, I called her and told her that I was spending the night at the home of a friend.
At about midnight, a car, our transportation to safety, arrived at the back of the house. It was our hero, Rev. Wells, and my former high school French teacher McCree Harris. After the ordeal of our escape from SNCC's office and our arrival at the house, I felt relieved and was sure that everything would be all right with Rev. Wells in our corner. In the dark, we crammed ourselves into the back of his car with the three White workers on the floor and the other two of us each sitting next to a window. I knew that if the police stopped us and saw Black males in a car with White females, then they would treat us worse than usual. But I was confident that would not happen because, although he sometimes drove fast, Rev. Wells would not take any chances at a time like this. He drove slowly and obeyed all traffic signs and lights to the letter of the law to avoid being stopped by police. We did pass and stop next to several police cars. That was unnerving; but the police did not stop us.
Rev. Wells talked calmly, encouraging us to relax. He said that the other SNCC workers were en route to the same place we were going — Beulah Baptist Church. The pastor and members had opened its doors to us for sanctuary. When we arrived, Rev. Wells drove to the unlit back door of the church, led us inside and placed us in the hands of the deacons and deaconesses. We profusely thanked him and Miss Harris for rescuing us, and they left.
All females were housed in one room with the deaconesses and all males in the other room with the deacons. The rest of the SNCC workers had already arrived and were settled in. We spent the night and part of the next morning at Beulah. After learning that the group would be driven to Shiloh Baptist Church for sanctuary and would be among other Albany activists who would remain on around-the-clock guard, I walked home. However, I went to Shiloh everyday, sometimes taking food. The SNCC workers remained at Shiloh for about a week, although a few ventured out and were arrested.
Not satisfied just to be active in The Albany Movement, Rev. Wells also traveled to and spoke at mass meetings in surrounding counties which included Lee, Terrell and Sumter.
During the time in 1963 when Slater King, vice president of The Albany Movement, ran for mayor of Albany, Rev. Wells was one of the featured speakers at a mass meeting. He talked about the mayoral race and laid out the strategy that should be used in the campaign. He urged the audience to unite and use all means available (radio, television, newspapers, flyers, word of mouth) to tell the story of oppression in Albany and to get the people out to vote for King. He asked affluent Black citizens to spearhead the financial support of King. He worked tirelessly in King's campaign, but King lost the election.
Rev. Wells was among nine Albany leaders indicted by the Justice Department in 1963 for "conspiring to obstruct justice" in connection with the picketing of a grocery store owned by a former juror who had voted guilty in a controversial case involving a Black man in another county. After the trials and convictions of five of the defendants, including Rev. wells, the case, ruled a mistrial in 1965, was dropped.
When Black students desegregated Albany High School, Rev. Wells was very supportive of them. He made sure that they were able to attend after-hours sports events by driving them to the events, remaining with them and driving them home afterwards.
The last time I saw Rev. Wells was in 1963, before he moved to Atlanta. I was downtown, and I saw a large crowd of people walking behind Rev. Wells. He had brought the crowd to register to vote. He and I greeted each other and I commented that he was "still on the job and still going strong." He flashed that remarkable smile and moved on with the crowd.
In 1970, Rev. Wells worked tirelessly in the campaign of Albany Attorney C.B. King who was the first Black person to run for governor of the State of Georgia.
After The Albany Movement reached its peak and leveled off, Rev. Wells continued to be active as Albany began its lengthy transition towards desegregation. Then he and his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia and remained there for 20 years. He joined SCLC, working as a field secretary in Georgia and Alabama where he was a victim of violence and where he participated in the March to Montgomery, Alabama. He was arrested during the demonstrations in St. Augustine, Florida. All the while, he was commuting to Worth County where he was still pastor of Blue Springs Church. He did this until the late l980s, after the death of Mrs. Wells. Then he went back to Albany and resumed his work in civil and human rights.
On April 24, 1998, at the Ritz Cultural Center in Albany, "Deep Wells," a play written by playwright Curtis L. Williams, was presented to honor Rev. Wells. The play, written especially for a two-day tribute to Rev. Wells, tells the story of Rev. Wells in his own words. A one man show with off-stage singers, the play presents the character of Rev. Wells reflecting on his earlier life and his work in the Civil Rights Movement. The play was a positive and powerful statement about a man who made a positive and powerful statement with his life and his dedicated work in the Civil Rights Movement.
Rev. Wells remained in Albany until his health began to fail. At that time he returned to Atlanta and to his family.
In November, 2003, Rev. Wells returned to Albany to receive The Fifth Anniversary Gala Award of the Albany Civil Rights Movement Museum in recognition of his tremendous contribution to The Albany Movement and to the Civil Rights Movement. In his lifetime, he wore many hats, and wore them well — soldier, civil servant at the Marine Base in Albany, deacon, minister, civil rights activist, community leader, youth counselor, organizer, teacher, mentor, artist — and was an inspiration to all whose lives he touched.
Copyright © Annette Jones White, 2013