For background & more information see:
Albany GA, Movement
Federal "Jury Tampering" Frameup in Albany GA
Americus GA Movement & "Seditious Conspiracy"
Dennis Robert's Stories of Southwest Georgia & C.B. King
See also Albany, Americus, & SW Georgia Freedom Movements for web links.
[Over the summer of 1963, Berkeley law student Dennis Roberts worked as a legal assistant for famed civil rights attorney C.B. King (no relation to Martin Luther King). This was a time of intense activity, as SNCC's Southwest Georgia project under the leadership of Charles Sherrod battled segregation and denial of voting rights in some of the toughest and most racist counties of the Deep South. This daily journal records Dennis' personal thoughts and observations from the thick of the struggle as it was occurring.
In 2014 Dennis annotated his journal with updates and explanations. These annotations are indicated by [indented text in brackets]
Scanned version of original typed journal (large PDF file.)
Saturday June 22, 1963
I have decided to keep a type of daily journal in duplicate and have this serve as a letter to all of you, as it will best enable me to keep all of you informed of the rapid series of events taking place here, with some semblance of chronological order, and at the same time avoid the impossibility of separate letters which would simply be a restatement of this journal.
Saturday June 22:
Two local agents of the FBI came in today to see Attorney King regarding allegations that violence was directed toward Jo Ann Christian and Burt Steck who are in jail. Today I was introduced to Chief of Police Laurie Pritchett, who evidenced all the Southern courtliness for which he is so famed in the AP dispatches, and he readily admitted me to the cell area.
The cells are unbelievably filthy; smells of human excretion overwhelm you on entering. Puddles of water covered the floor and the Negro girls complained of having water sprayed on them by the police. 14 Negro males were stuffed into a 4 man cell and will remain there for at least a week until they come to trial. Of course sleeping is impossible. In another 4 bunk cell (no mattresses) are seven white girls, all SNCC workers.
They have been on a hunger strike since Thursday and Penny Patch is very sick. Joni Rabinowitz seems to be the main factor in keeping up morale. The others, Cathy Cade, Miriam Cohen, Wendy Mann, Sue Wender, and Felicia Oldfather are very recent arrivals in Albany and are having a lot of trouble adjusting to life in jail. They are all very sweet little girls from upper middle class homes who were ''concerned" and are to be admired for their decision, but it is obvious that a dirty stinking jail wasn't part of their picture of what this summer would be like.
The white males, Steck and Blechner are in City jail (6 other SNCC guys are in Lee County jail) and are in an especially bad situation as they are split up and each has 3 or 4 local white thugs in their cells. One is the guy who almost beat William Hansen to death last year, but at least this thug was removed today.
Chief Pritchett is very clever. The Movement planned to have marches and arrests daily and fill his jail. But he has simply farmed the overflow out to other, rural, counties. The remaining 6 SNCC kids have taken refuge at Shiloh Church and run operations from there. This was necessary as it is obvious that the police intend to arrest every SNCC worker in the city on any charge they can dream up when they see them. The church is under constant surveillance by the police.
Joyce Barrett and Faith Holsaert seem to be keeping the newer arrivals under control. Joyce especially is a great organizer, keeping the press informed, collecting mail and personal items for the kids in jail, and phoning alarmed parents. Sunday June 23:
Around noon I went to Shiloh and filled my briefcase with soap, books, etc for the kids at City jail. The SNCC girls seem less loquacious than yesterday and both Wendy and Miriam don't seem to be able to hold out much longer. I brought juice for Penny who is sick with a high fever, but the rest are still fasting.
Bobby Starling who had hot coffee poured on him twice while sitting-in at a restaurant (charged with loitering — the Jim Crow laws have been used to arrest the civil rights workers) seems to be in bad shape also. His burns have started to get infected; there are now 16 males in that cell. I spoke with Jean Wheeler for a while — she is a student at Howard, phi beta kappa, an exceptionally brilliant and charming person, completely unselfish and dedicated to changing things here. She is a great help to kids on that side of the jail.
Then we drove out to Camilla in Mitchell County where the juveniles are being kept. We spoke with JoAnne Christian who was beaten, kicked, and dropped through the arrest and while in jail. She is one of the most amazing people I have met, only 15 years old, yet completely fearless. She recounted in exact detail every aspect of her arrest. She did this right in front of the jailer who is an enormous vicious brute, telling us how her mistreated her, and when he screamed out that she was a "damned liar" she never flinched (I did) but kept on giving us the facts in the same composed tone. She told us how the jailer came in and took out the light bulb, because she was leading the singing and she told him, "that's all right, Jesus is my light".
I guess my presence with C.B. was too much for the jailer to take, a challenge to the white monolith, and I believe I came as close as I ever will, of getting killed today, and the experience has sobered me considerably. As we walked out of the cell the jailer came up to me and said: "You lower'n a gah damn dawg for heppin' C.B.". I didn't understand what he said, being mystified by his southern accent, so he repeated "Boy, you're lower than a god damn dog for helping C.B." (my translation).
I cleverly asked him if that statement was for the record, having filled myself with the Constitution and just knowing there was no retaliation possible, which incensed him to a point that he stated: "come outside and I'll tear your ass loose". At this point I felt it expedient to step outside of his reach and walked over to where C.B. was interviewing two juveniles. When he was finished we started to walk out, and he said: "C.B., make sure this god damn white boy understands that I'm going to get him", and to me "next time I see you I'm going to kill you''. At this point Attorney was sufficiently close to elbow me in the ribs to refrain from any further conversation, and when we got outside he told me that it was at Camilla where his visibly pregnant sister-in-law was kicked in the stomach causing her to suffer a miscarriage.
[C.B. also told me that if I couldn't learn to keep my big mouth shut he would drive me to the bus station and send my luggage on afterwards. He pointed out that he had five little children who he would love to see grow up. I swore I would not do anything so stupid again. The rest of the summer I was "humble". Uncle Tom had nothing on me]
It would seem that the very presence of a white "race traitor" is enough to set these imbeciles into a terrible rage and only extreme luck saved me today. However, it has been decided that my usefulness in Camilla is limited and I won't set foot in Mitchell County again. Jo Ann has been on a hunger strike for four days now. At one point an Albany cop threaded to kill her and Chief Pritchett, who prides himself on his non-violent approach, pulled her around the jail by her hair.
Monday June 24:
We went out to Lee Co jail in Leesburg. We were out there in the rain Sunday, but no guard was there to let us in (tho Chief had assured us that there is an Albany cop at every jail where people are farmed out, at all times). Six white males with SNCC were out there and before we left Blechner and Steck were brought in from City. The guys at Lee are in remarkably good spirits considering that they have fasted for 5 days and have been off water today. The sheriff's father came in and observed: "I see we have the god damn scum of New Yawk down here".
Later we went back to City jail and visited with the girls. Felicia Oldfather's father, a law professor at Univ of Kansas hired a local white attorney to defend her; this lawyer is one of the worst segregationists in town. This is the kind of thing that destroys so much of the good that the SNCC kids have done in the Negro community, seeing white SNCC kids hiring racist white lawyers.
The Negro kids were taken across the street to County jail today. C.B. thought it better that I didn't go in with him as that's where Sheriff Cull Campbell split his head open with a cane last year when C.B. had the "audacity" to sit where the white lawyers were sitting. While in City jail little Miriam Cohen asked so plaintively for my socks that I had to leave them, which must have presented a rather ludicrous sight for the cops as I walked out in a suit but without any socks. At night they had a very successful mass meeting. Dr C.T. Vivian spoke and really moved the crowd (he's from Nashville). Quite a large number pf people left to march downtown, but we won't know how many were arrested until tomorrow. At this mass meeting all the new SNCC people got up on the stage and got introduced. I did too. It was kind of embarrassing especially when people started to applaud us. Tuesday June 25:
Today Chief Pritchett banned me from the jail. I had gone up to see the kids at City and bring them some more toilet articles. They told me that everything we brought them was taken away right after we left (tho the Chief personally okayed everything) — more harassment. Also Penny looks very bad and one of the girls arrested last night (there were 13 all together) had some bad bruises, so I went in to tell the Chief that they both needed medical attention and requested that he allow the girls to have their sanitary napkins back. He told me that I couldn't tell him how to run his jail, and to stay the hell out of his office.
I think he was primarily upset because the jailer at Mitchell must have called him and also because I overheard the police setting up the raid on SNCC headquarters. They raided SNCC and Albany Movement headquarters around 10 a.m. claiming to have warrants for two kids charged with the attack on the white man a few days ago. An old man who was leaving Movement headquarters as the police approached was arrested in the front yard, charged with vagrancy and fined $103. Last night 13 people of the group that walked down to City jail after the mass meeting were arrested and charged with parading without a permit. 7 of them were juveniles. Patty Gaines, a 13 year old girl, was dragged up the steps of the police station by her heels, so that her head hit every step.
During the day Bert Danziger of the Civil Rights Commission came into the office. He is in Albany to investigate charges of police brutality and the concerted effort to "get" SNCC. Heilbrun of the Justice Dept is also here. I spoke with Danziger for about 4 hours, giving him details of the arrests of the past week. He graduated from Boalt Hall in June of '62, a fact that I thought might help me. It seems that this was a complete waste of time as the Commission and Justice Dept simply investigates and files reports, but nothing ever gets done. Meanwhile the brutality continues. Tho all other juveniles have been released on the order of the juvenile court judge, they are still holding Jo Ann. Around 5 p.m. we started driving to Montgomery, Alabama, about 160 miles to the west. We drove through some of the worst red-neck areas in the South, and it was very tense driving, especially when passing thru the little towns. Albany license plates are especially dangerous as the other Southwest Georgia counties feel that the Movement is a direct threat to their status quo and have a special hatred for Albany Negroes (and those who support them).
[It was decided that I would do all of the driving with C.B. sitting in the back seat. I know it sounds like a black man with a white chauffer but that is not at all how it is perceived. Here white men often pick up their black nannies, maids or gardeners and drive them to the house where they work. They ride in the back. So crackers are used to this. If anyone takes note they see it as me driving my gardener somewhere. The fact that my "gardener" is wearing a very expensive silk suit and tie doesn't seem to enter into the equation. If he isn't a worker why the hell is a white boy driving him. Now if he sat up front or if he did the driving and I sat either in the front or back there would be trouble as now they see us as some sort of integrationists.
On the trip back from Montgomery I got hopelessly lost. Finally I came upon a little redneck bar. I went in to ask directions in my very best southern accent. Meanwhile C.B., no fool he, crouched down in the back seat so no one passing by would see him. They were very nice about giving me directions -- whenever they deal with a white person southerners tend to be extremely cordial. One day I was driving C.B.'s car home from Americus. I was speeding, lost in thought, and I ran off the road into a field. A farmer on a tractor came up to me. I thought it's over now, as C.B.'s car was quite recognizable. But he simply offered to pull me out of the field back onto the highway. When I got on the road he invited me in for a meal, which I graciously refused saying I was late for a dinner date in Albany. I offered him some money for pulling me out of the field and he refused it, looking kind of offended. Yes, if you are not seen as a damn integrationist people tend to be much nicer to you then in the North.]
Many of these counties have a Negro population of well over 50% which terrifies the whites at the thought of Negroes registering to vote.
When we arrived in Montgomery we stayed with Dr Harris, a pharmacist. He owns a very large and beautiful home which you would expect to see on about 10 acres of land, but in the South when a Negro wishes to build a home it must be in an area that is historically Negro -- so his home is in the middle of a slum. It has about 7 large bedrooms. At one point 33 Freedom Riders stayed there, so you can gauge the size from that. When Negroes travel in the South it is on a town to town basis. That is, when you are tired of driving at night you don't pull into a motel, but have to schedule your trip to arrive in a town where a friend or relative lives so that you can stay with them,. That night there were at least 9 prominent Negro attorneys staying with Dr Harris.
An observation about the middle class Negro: They are the very backbone of the civil rights struggle in the South, tho the ministers as a general rule are very reactionary. However many of the professional men are at the forefront of this struggle here, ie. Atty King comes from this background. However, unfortunately, there are considerable numbers of Negroes from this class who are very much opposed to what is being done for a number of reasons. In many instances they indirectly benefit from the status quo in that they control the Negro market; they have developed these paternalistic Uncle Tom connections with the white power structure on which they depend (ie. Pres. Bledsoe in Invisible Man) most Negro college presidents (of the State Negro Colleges) are in this group; also a lot of the ministers.
[The President of Albany State, Dr. Dennis, told C.B. he would have him arrested for trespassing if he dared come onto school grounds. The year before they had expelled about twenty students for marching. In the summer of 2012 I went to a reunion of the Albany Movement celebrating its 50th Anniversary.More on C.B.'s family: his brother, Clennon King, was the first Negro to try and enter the Univ of Mississippi, back in 1957. What an incredibly brave act. He presented at the registrar's office and was promptly taken into custody, adjudged insane, and committed. C.B. managed to get him out on a writ by promising to take him out of the State. Clennon has subsequently gone to Jamaica and is now somewhere in Latin America.
It was suggested that it was about time these students were recognized for their heroic act and it was proposed to the state legislature that they be given honorary degrees. The state Board of Education vetoed that idea.]
[OMG the Clennon stories are legion. Years before he had moved to San Diego with his wife and child. They had no money as Clennon was only interested in publishing a religious newspaper. Anyhow at one point he moved to Mexico leaving the family in San Diego. His wife applied for welfare but in those days to get on welfare you had to swear out a warrant against the man who ran away. Since that was the only way she could get on welfare, she did. A warrant issued. If you deserted your family but stayed in California the penalty was very light — it might even have been a misdemeanor — but if you left the state it was a serious felony which I think carried a 5 year sentence. This was before determinative sentencing. Meanwhile Clennon continued to live in Mexico publishing his paper, but he was not successful. I believe he then goes to Jamaica but ultimately moves to Cleveland.
Being a "fugitive" does not sit well with him. Knowing that a warrant has issued from San Diego he goes in to a Cleveland police station and tells them there is a warrant from California charging him with family abandonment (or whatever that statute was called) and he wanted the police to send him back to San Diego to face the charges. They threw him out seeing him as a kind of crazy person.
He attempted to get extradited on several occasions (he did not have the money to get to San Diego on his own). Finally one of the cops checked and sure enough there was a warrant so he was arrested and sent back to San Diego. He was tried with a court appointed lawyer and the jury hung 11 to 1 for conviction. He was not your model defendant, calling out comments on the testimony of the other side and generally making a real pain in the ass out of himself.
So after the hung jury he told the court he didn't want or need an appointed lawyer. He was going to represent himself. The judge went along with it if Clennon promised to behave. So he tried his own case and was convicted and sent to San Luis Obispo prison colony. Thinking back it was probably one of those five to life sentences where you got out when the parole board said it was ok. Well knowing Clennon he would never get out. After graduating from law school I came back to Albany for about two and a half years. I am confused on the time frame but it was probably the last year I was in Albany that the California Supreme Court was sitting in Monterey as some sort of commemorative celebration (I believe that was where the first California Supreme Court sat. Anyhow one of the later law students, Peter Haberfeld, graduated and worked for a lawyer in Santa Cruz. We contacted him and he brought a habeas for Clennon. He lost in the trial court but the case got up to the California Supreme Court and C.B. flew out to argue the case. He won, the Court reversing and perhaps holding that statute unconstitutional because of the disparity of sentencing if you stayed or left California. It is published as In re King. So C.B. freed his brother (for the second time).
Clennon returned to Albany, very grateful to his kid brother. At the time C.B. was running for the state legislature or perhaps governor as a way to encourage blacks to register to vote. In any event Clennon started campaigning for him but it did not take very long for Clennon to denounce C.B. as an Uncle Tom and he then filed to run against C.B. in whatever election that was involved.]
A younger brother, Preston, who had been accepted at Yale Law School has also left the US and after having studied in England for a while, and is now teaching at the Univ of Ghana.
[Preston was going to Fisk and was living in Nashville when he turned 18 so he registered for the draft in Albany by mail. All of their correspondence with him was "Dear Mr. King". Then one day when he was back in Albany he had to go to the Board for some reason. Now they suddenly realized he was black so thereafter the letters were "Dear Preston". He wrote them back telling them he did not presume to call them by their first names and they shouldn't address him other than as Mr. King. They ignored that request (what else is new).
He then went to the London School of Economics on a full scholarship and when there he got another "Dear Preston" letter telling him to report to some military base in England for a physical. When he didn't respond they sent him a draft notice and when he came back to the US he was arrested and prosecuted. He was convicted and sentenced to 3 years in prison (because he requested the same courtesy titles they used for whites). So he jumped bail and went back to England and has lived there and Ghana since that time. His daughter, Oona (I believe that is the spelling) is a member of Parliament in Britain. He couldn't come back to the US when each of his parents died.
Anyhow I think it was Jimmy Carter who offered him a pardon which he refused as he said there was nothing to pardon him for. I'm not sure but somehow Clinton did something for him and one of the driving forces behind that was Liz Holtzman who worked with me in the summer of 1963 and subsequently became a member of Congress (and was quite prominent during the Watergate hearings).
In any event he is free to return to the US but has no desire to do so. The judge who sentenced him (the same judge who sentenced the Movement people in that grocery picketing/perjury case) said, years later, that he regrets today that he sentenced Preston.]
Paul (who is married to a Spanish girl, Amaya) also studied in Puerto Rico and the Univ of Madrid.
[Another incredible story. How could an interracial couple survive in the Deep South in the fifties and sixties. As far as the Crackers were concerned Amaya wasn't white (though she had Snow White's coloring). You see, she couldn't be white because "she talked funny" and she was a "furriner" which made her something other than white. I had a similar experience. This happened after Wendy and I returned to Albany after I graduated from law school in Berkeley. A local guy asked Chuck Lawrence (another law clerk) about "that brother who works with C.B." Chuck explained that he was the only "brother" working for C.B. and the guy said, "you know, the brother married to the Indian girl". Now many people in Albany, both black and white, assumed I was just a black guy with a very light complexion, which certainly wasn't uncommon in Albany. But how to deal with me, the black guy, married to a white girl (Wendy). Simple, she wasn't white. See she wore her hair in braids so people made her a Native American — since not white it was ok for her to be married to a black guy. The mind tricks they used to rationalize things was amazing to me.]Wednesday June 26: Went to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for argument on the Albany omnibus suit to desegregate all city facilities. Though the court is home based in Atlanta they often sit other places like Montgomery. There was a three man panel of Tuttle, Ewing, and Rives. Tuttle is an excellent judge who is unprejudiced. and has handed down some great decisions. Ewing is an arch-segregationist, and Rives is the swing man. Four other cases were heard that day besides ours: A Birmingham school desegregation suit, and 3 cases from Mississippi involving injunctions against the City of Jackson, Miss to stop arresting peaceful demonstrators; habeas on some already jailed; and a suit under Title 3 of the I960 Civil Rights Act brought by the US to get the voting lists from Miss. registrars. Mrs. Motley of the Legal Defense Fund of NAACP, Inc. argued the Albany and Birmingham cases, and is a marvelous attorney. Also present were Don Hollowell of Atlanta (the Dean of Georgia's Movement lawyers and a close friend of Attorney King) and Attorney Williams of Birmingham. Robert Ming argued one of the Miss. cases for the LDF of NAACP and Carter (chief counsel for the NAACP) argued the other. Barbara Morris, his assistant and Dexter Bell were also present. Other attorneys were Jack Young of Miss, Fred Gray from Montgomery, Ernie Jackson from Jacksonville, Florida, also Wiley Branton and John Doar from the Justice Dept was there. Judge Tuttle constantly put counsel for the States in their place. The Asst Atty Genl from Miss was about the most unprepared attorney I have ever seen. At one point he cited a case which Tuttle advised him had since been reversed. The court promised "emergency action" in these cases so maybe we will get a prompt decision. We visited with David Blicker (the other Boalt law student who got a clerkship in the south with Chuck Conley) in Montgomery for a while and started driving back. I got lost twice in Alabama and it was very anxiety provoking to drive around back country roads. Thursday June 27:
Today marked the arrival of the "concerned parents". So far Mr. Cade, Cohen, and Oldfather are in town. I phoned the local FBI about my treatment by the Mitchell Co. jailer and have also filed a report with the Civil Rights Comm. We stayed up until about 2 a.m. typing pleas, motions to dismiss, and demurrers for the trials tomorrow.
This evening a group 3 first year students from Harvard Law showed up. They are on a very ambiguous program started by Bill Higgs, a white lawyer who used to practice in Mississippi until he started doing civil rights work, and was then charged with child molesting). They were supposed to clerk with him but he left Mississippi. Anyhow he got up a fund paying them about $35/wk and they are supposed to try and get clerking jobs on their own. The two guys were little Harvard snots, with no conception of what is happening here. The girl, Liz Holtzman, started off very badly — it seemed to be beneath her dignity as a law student to type. I was very discouraging about her staying as we have enough problems as it is. However, she seems determined to stay in Albany, and King told her that it's o.k. with him, but she will not be connected with him in any official capacity and he will take no responsibility for her. So she will be working here in the office, at least until someone yells "nigger lover" and she grabs the first thing smoking for Atlanta. Friday June 28:
Today I saw Georgia "justice" in action. We were up at about 7 am as we had all the witnesses to John Perdew's arrest meet at Shiloh to see if we could find anyone who could testify that he didn't throw a brick at a police car as charged. I was handed an announcement of a Klan meeting on July 6 in Albany; they are quite active in this part of the State. The trials, if this is the proper word to describe the circus that we saw, started at 9 am, presided over by Judge Durden of the Recorders Ct. (like Muni Court in CA). Our first problem was getting some of the witnesses in as the Chief gave orders that no one could come in. After we got that out of the way, and with Joni and Penny desegregating the Negro section, and little Patty Gaines in the white section, the proceedings started. Nothing was done about the "mongrolized" seating as there were two people from the Justice Dept in the court. I have the idea that the only reason they are here is because of telegrams from the parents of the SNCC kids, most of whom come from families who can generally exert some political influence.
I sat at counsel table with Atty King, and before the first case was called Grady Rawls, solicitor (equivalent of the district attorney) for the City, demanded to know who I was, "who is the white boy sitting with King?" C.B. introduced me to the court as his law clerk, and the judge finally decided that I could stay. I think this was the only time during the day that he decided anything in our favor. First case was City of Albany v Vera Giddens, et al (Robert Cover and Ralph Allen of SNCC),they were charged with distributing advertising handbills. The City, as in every other case, offered very little testimony, or proof. We showed that the publications were ~ simply an announcement of a mass meeting to be held that night and a copy of Student Voice a SNCC publication which the kids mimeographed every few days. Neither of these publications contained any advertising matter. Not a problem for the City. The Judge said $54 or 15 days.
This is the kind of blatant unconstitutionality that you face in trying a case in Georgia — and makes you wonder whether the course in Constitutional Law being taught at most law schools shouldn't be reappraised. It took a while until I stopped saying "but that was decided by the Supreme Court years ago". Seems that Georgia hasn't heard about the Supreme Court, or if they have, they are pointedly ignoring this memory. Of course this conviction won't be reversed until the Georgia Supreme Court, or maybe even the U.S. Supreme Ct, and all of this litigation costs time and money which the Albany Movement doesn't have.
Next up was City v Willie Ricks, charged with disorderly conduct as a participant at a mass meeting in one of the Negro projects. Again, clearly constitutionally permissible conduct, but the judge said $200 and 60 days as Willie is a native of Albany and known as a "bad nigra".
He was followed by City v Porter, et al which included Penny, Pete Titleman (both with SNCC) and five local Negroes, charged with disorderly conduct and failure to obey an officer. They were walking on a dirt path which serves as a sidewalk in the ghetto, two abreast, making no noise, on their way to a mass meeting. Chief Pritchett came up and arrested them. He testified that they were sitting in the street blocking traffic. Of course the testimony of 5 Negroes and two "outside agitators" doesn't carry much weight against the testimony of the most honorable chief of police, so it was $103 or 10 days. All these cases will immediately have petitions for certiorari to the Superior Ct filed. But Allen, Cover, (two white SNCC guys and Vera Giddens, a local Negro, have decided to serve 14 of the 15 days before filing cert as their protest to this type of "justice". They will go on fasting until they drop — they have been fasting for over a week now.
The damndest part of this farce is that we have to watch the judge overrule every defensive pleading we filed without so much courtesy as to even pretending that he read it. Attorney King hands it to him, he puts it aside, and says "overruled". Every time the Chief testified he just rambled on about the violence perpetrated by Negroes and the SNCC people and C.B.'s objections only serve to fill the record.
Last case of the day was City v Mann et al which was Wendy Mann, Cathy Cade, and Sue Wender, three SNCC girls. They had been arrested on suspicion of vagrancy, held 72 hrs and then booked as vagrants. At the trial we brought out for the record that they had informed the police that they were employed by SNCC (at subsistence wages, I think $6/week when they have the money) and that they also had independent incomes or parental support; that the clothes they were wearing when arrested were brand new, etc. Some of the fathers were in court. The judge delivered a speech about how they were obviously nice girls from fine upstanding homes and they should go back home and not be with these bad associations in Albany. Then he sentenced them to 60 days as vagrants, in the face of all the proof that we submitted. At first he said something about suspending sentence if they left the city, but later changed it to 60 days suspended with reservation to jail them if they violated any further ordinance. Then he adjourned court for the day.
Mr.Oldfather, a law prof at the U of Kansas, who was here to take his baby girl home, told the judge he didn't relish the thought of staying in Albany over the weekend as he had every intention of bringing her back with him, so the judge wanted to stipulate the facts and release Oldfather and Cohen (whose father was also there) along with the other three, on 60 day suspended. But the Attorney only agreed to stipulate facts (as if everyone had been tried together) if all those jailed for vagrancy were sentenced at this time. So, Joni, Blechner, Cohen, and Oldfather were all given 60 days suspended at this time. Felicia is the only one who is leaving, the others have all decided to stay, tho Cathy Cade and Miriam Cohen are going home for a few days, but will come back, they said. Saturday June 29:
Things have been very confused here today, as I have to do a lot of work Monday, as C.B. will be in Chicago for a conference, and we spent most of the day working on the details for Monday. First thing will be to bond out Penny Patch who is very sick. The fasting had a shocking physical effect on the SNCC kids as they were at it for at least a week — they look emaciated. The Movement is desperately in need of funds especially for fees and bonds to file for cert and carry these cases up in the court system. A really funny thing happened last night. The very proper Mr. Oldfather was picked up by the police for having a faulty muffler. He was handcuffed and brought to the station (like a common criminal I would imagine he said) and told that no charges would be brought if he got out of town immediately and took his daughter (they must have thought he wasn't going to take her home). They left immediately. As far as I am concerned at this point, unless the Movement takes to the streets with mass demonstrations, nothing will get done. Every time a small group gets picked up it makes it that much easier for the police to stop them. We need large groups going to jail, like in Birmingham, before the Movement will be in a position to tell the businessmen what they want.
Sunday June 30:
Drove out to Americus with Frank Holley last night to visit his wife and in-laws. Americus is about 50 miles to the north, on the road to Atlanta. When we got there we went to one of the "down home" clubs. Frank Holley has a really beautiful house in Albany, but again it sits right next to a rundown shack. I was fortunate that C.B. was able to get me a room with Mr. Holley where the living is much more comfortable than for most of the SNCC kids who are staying with local and usually very poor families.
I keep discovering things about C.B.'s family; they are really a cross section of the American Negro's reaction to racism. Slater, the realtor, is very outspoken. The other day he was standing on the street and a cop told him to move on. He said: "move on, shit, I am a citizen even though you don't recognize me as such" but nothing happened to him, maybe because he is C.B.'s brother.
[Slater got involved in radical left politics and was very close to Malcolm. He was a successful realtor and did extremely well financially. When C.B. built his dream office he shared one half with Slater's real estate business. On several occasions C.B. saw white lawyers sneaking by at night to take a look at his building which was quite attractive. Unfortunately Slater died in a car accident. Two other brothers are expatriates, and two are complete alcoholics, driven to the wall by "the system", so everyone reacts to the racism in a different way. The two brothers who are expatriates are Clennon and Preston. Of the remaining two, one brother was a contractor in Cleveland with a serious drinking problem and the other one I didn't know much about other than he was also a serious drunk who couldn't hold a job.
I think this brother believed in white people doing right by him. He worked security in some Atlanta department store. From the mezanine he saw he saw a black man shoplifting so he leaped off the balcony onto the man, but missed and is paralyzed. Now this is how I remember the story and it may be completely garbled and a confabulation.]
At Frank's in-laws in Americus I got to relax. I had a nice time at the club there, got quite drunk (an indiscretion I can't allow myself in Albany) and stuffed myself on "down home" cooking — grits, greens, and sausage. Also met John L. Barnum, Frank's brother in law who is considered more daring than Frank — supposedly he beat up a local cop and a state trooper one night and nothing happened as most likely they were too embarrassed to report it. I also met Frank's mother in law who is a huge woman, clearly evidencing the Cherokee strain in the family. Mrs. Barnum, who everyone calls Grandma has become a Catholic and spends most of her time trying to convert her Holiness friends. The Barnum's are relatively safe in Americus since they own a funeral parlor, a very prosperous Negro business.
Though I had fun at the club Frank took me to one part of me gets very depressed. Saturday night is very bad here, filled with violence and aggression. These people who have their faces rubbed in dirt all week have nothing left but to get drunk and often arrested on Sat. night
After we got back to Albany, Frank dropped me off at the SNCC office where a few of the kids have gone back to do some work, having left Shiloh Church. They told me 3 Negro kids were arrested when they tried to get enter a white church to pray. Isn't Christianity is wonderful. Someone said they were arrested for "prayin' without a permit". I'l1 never be able to adequately communicate the tension of sitting around the SNCC office knowing that any minute a shot can come through the window, or walking 2 blocks home and tightening up every time a car approaches, as it could be the cops and a vagrancy arrest.
If people on the outside want to know what can be done to help the situation here, the only thing besides money which is desperately needed to appeal these cases, is to write and wire the Justice Dept, Kennedy, etc, demanding to know what they intend to do about the police brutality, and the deprivation of constitutional rights in Albany. This seems to help as Heilbrun of the Justice Dept covered the trials because a lot of the kids' parents pressured their congressmen. Of course his presence didn't make a damn bit of difference.
The Attorney is in Chicago today at the NAACP convention, so his secretary, Miss Jessie and I are running the office. The first thing I had to do was to file a cert bond for Penny Patch (she had already signed it) so I just needed Judge Durden's signature`. I also had one for Ralph Allen to sign but was told I could not get to him until noon as he was on the work gang. After Durden kept me waiting for about 45 minutes I finally got his signature on the bond. These people are such sons of bitches. The first thing he said was how did I fill that bond out for $200 as he had never set a figure (tho policy sets the fine in these cases). I told him that Atty told me that he had spoken with the Judge about the figure but the Judge denied this. However, he did allow it at that sum. I got Penny out at about 11 AM. She was very weak, having fasted for 11 days, and could hardly walk. The desk sergeant tried to keep her. I had to show him the papers the judge signed for her release. Attorney King talks about the same kind of irrelevancies all the time down here — they just keep you running from building to building, the paperwork is never right, all of which is simplified for the white attorneys. When I got Penny out she told me that they had been beating Ralph and the other two guys. They had been put in a cell with 6 young thugs including the guy who beat up Hansen. I called Joyce to try and get bond money for Ralph, Peter Titleman and Bob Cover to get them out of there. The money was finally gotten together. I got in at noon to see Cover and Titleman to get their signatures. They really looked frightened and told me that they had to get out as soon as possible.
When I was outside the Negro run-around (a trustee in City jail) . told me that the guys in their cell planned to kill them tonight. I wanted to see Ralph to get his signature but the Desk Sergeant told me that the FBI (Federal Bureau he called them) had him and sent me to the 400 block of Pine St. There was no one there. Then I went over to the Fed Bldg and no one was there either. I came back to jail and asked Chief where Ralph was and he told me that they had him in a cell in the back room the whole time. More irrelevancies. Ralph looked terrible — he had a big bruise on his forehead and his lip was split and puffy.
Tuesday and Wed, July 2 & 3:
Spent the two days trying to get up bond money for those convicted last Friday, also convinced Chief Pritchett to release those still awaiting trial to be let out on property bonds. The trials have only been scheduled for Tues July 9th (which meant that some of these people would have been in jail for 3 weeks before the Recorders Ct trial). On Wednesday we managed to get most of the people out — only Perdew, deLissivoy, Hicks and Lannie Mae Thrower are still in (more about this later)
[C.B. and Don Hollowell finally got the insurrection statute declared unconstitutional and John Perdew, Ralph Allen, Don Harris and Zev Aelony were released after spending months in jail. Of course the insurrection statute (carrying the death penalty) had been declared unconstitutional by the USSC back in the 30s in a case where they were trying to execute Angelo Herndon, a black Communist union organizer. The fact that the statute had previously been declared unconstitutional by the highest court in the land did not seem to faze the good prosecutors and judges in Americus one bit. I don't know what happened to Ralph Allen; Don Harris went on to a very successful career at the Ford Foundation; Zev Aelony died recently from cancer.
John Perdew married a black woman from Americus named Amanda Bowen who was a feisty little Movement girl. They had a daughter who became a Federal Defender (like public defender) who Obama wanted to put on the U. S. District Court bench in Atlanta but that was squelched by the Georgians who were in Congress — seems racism has a long memory. Amanda also died from cancer. John is still in Atlanta and doing Movement work as he has done these many years.
Peter deLissovoy stayed in Albany after that summer. He worked on C.B.'s campaign for either Governor or the State House of Representatives — I can never remember which. He and Randy Battle were very close and Peter would go down to Albany quite frequently. Peter dropped out of SNCC activity and went to work for a construction company which I believe was owned by Frank Holley. While in Albany he wrote a book called Feelgood, which was the name of a root doctor (someone who knows which plants and roots are medicinal, knowledge passed down through the generations). He then moved to New York and ultimately to New England where he farms and raises horses. He recently edited a book of the writings of several of us about our experiences in Georgia — stories by me, Peter, Randy Battle, and Curtis Williams who was a professor at Albany State. The book is called "The Great Pool Jump" taking its title from the story Randy tells about how he, his cousin and James Daniels jumped the fence at the Tift Park Pool, dove into the water and swam to the other side, climbed out and jumped back over the fence. The cops never caught them. Randy talks about how when they dove in "the white children jumped out of the pool like porpoises". The pool was then drained and scrubbed for three days to get rid of any "contamination" which might have been left by the three "outlaws". Of course the people who scrubbed the pool were black but those contradictions never seemed to bother white folks. The book is available from Amazon. Actually, Amazon even has a couple of used copies of Feelgood, unless I bought the last copy as I had loaned mine out. Another place to find some of the stories of Albany back then is on the Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement website, www.crmvet.org. When it opens go to "Our Stories" and there you will find stories written by Randy Battle, Peter, myself and others. There is another book entitled "Hands on the Freedom Plow", personal accounts by women in SNCC. It was edited by several SNCC women including Faith Holsaert and Martha Prescod Norman Noonan who working in Albany. There are submissions by 52 SNCC women including a number who worked in Albany. I assume this book is also available through Amazon.]
There was a party at the Christians' for the kids who were released from jail and it ran very late. The SNCC kids have come out of Shiloh and are back in the neighborhoods working. Ralph Allen was working out in CME territory yesterday and a car stopped when they saw him, but he took off over a fence to avoid vagrancy charges or a similar arrest. It seems that the harassment will not stop. On Saturday night the Klan meets in Albany and tempers are at the breaking point. Also, Sunday Tift Park pool is scheduled to be re-opened. During the time on the action to desegregate this pool, it was sold as surplus City property to the owner of the Albany Herald (a Northerner from New England named James Gray) who has opened it as a private pool for use of white citizens of Albany and their guests. Probably on Sunday a lot of the Negro youngsters will go out to the pool and bear witness with their presence to the continuance of city policy by private ownership. Elizabeth got back to Albany yesterday. She had been arrested in Albany, also in Mississippi for her activities in the integration struggle. I spent a lot of time talking with one of the SNCC girls who had spent some time in jail, Wendy Mann. She presents the same conflicts which confront most of the other SNCC workers, and which I also am faced — a kind of depressing realization that so very little is being accomplished, and so much that must be done.
[Wendy Mann stayed on, working in Terrell County and living with Carolyn Daniels. We then agreed that she should come out to Berkeley and be with me. She left Dawson, Terrell County on Nov. 22, 1963, the day JFK was assassinated. She left in the morning. That evening some crackers who had a 50 caliber machine gun mounted on a pickup truck opened fire spraying the house with bullets. Fortunately no one was hurt. Many of the bullets tore into the room where Wendy slept. At the end of my last year in law school we returned to Albany. I worked as an attorney along with C.B. King. Meanwhile Wendy who didn't want to do any more voter registration work, had worked in a nursery school in Berkeley. There were no kindergartens in Albany. We collected school supplies, books, toys, etc and someone donated an old Ford station wagon. We wrote grant proposals and some money was raised. We drove that old clunker Ford to Georgia loaded out with supplies for the school she hoped to build. Somewhere in Nebraska it broke down and we had to wait several days for a part. When we got to New York we realized that not being married would mean we were "living in sin" which would have troubled the religious segment of the black community but also Georgia had very strict laws regarding adultery and fornication and we would be exposing ourselves to prosecution. Although cohabiting would not have been adultery as neither of us were married to others, it sure was garden variety fornication. Silly as it sounds it was a real threat and was often used to prosecute black teenagers. So we got married in New York City.
It turned out Carol King, C.B.'s wife, had a degree in Early Childhood Education though since there were no kindergartens in Albany (not even for white children), she taught second or third grade. She got very excited about the idea of building a nursery school and the two of them built the Albany Georgia Nursery School. It was an enormous success and soon attracted about 50% white children. The white daddies, both local and from the military bases saw this as an ideal way to get the kid out of the house so momma could get a job and make sure their kids got the benefit of this tremendous project. It really proved that racism could be sublimated if the reward was great enough. And the children got so very much out of the experience. Of course the black parents were delighted and a number of them helped out at the school. This was built a year before Head Start came into existence and it was used as an example of how you could have interracial nursery schools in the Deep South, despite the southern congressmen saying it couldn't be done. It became a model for the Head Start folks and a number of people from Bank Street College in New York came down. A couple of years later, through this, Wendy was offered a scholarship to Bank Street which was an Early Childhood Education school. More about our move to New York later. Meanwhile Carol King continued to run the school which eventually opened a number of early childhood educational centers throughout Albany.]
It is painfully obvious what is taking place in Albany at this time. Fewer people are coming to mass meetings, fewer people are willing to go out and demonstrate or go to jail in this struggle. However, this doesn't mean that Pritchett and the whites of Albany have defeated the Negroes of Albany. Rather, what they have done is drive some of the people underground so that weapons are being collected, and people are sitting home with guns, or hanging around bars and arguing, but not doing anything in a positive and constitutionally permissible manner. What will happen, and I am as convinced of this as of anything I have ever known, is that it is a matter of one more incident, another rape, or beating, or abuse, and the dissatisfied and disenfranchised, who no longer have the patience to listen to the leaders of the Movement, will take their guns, their dynamite, their gasoline bombs, and go out into the streets. I have spoken with people in the gin mills, taxi drivers, some of the kids in the street gangs (The SNCC people do not work in the bars and juke joints as they are offensive to the more "respectable" element (ie. the religious) of the Albany Negro community) but I am not so confined and have considerable access to these areas through my association after hours with Mr. Holley where I have my room. I hear this constantly from all these people, and they represent a far greater number than those who attend mass meetings and advocate non- violence; they are fed up with waiting, fed up with asking, damn tired of being pushed around, beaten, having their daughters raped, and as one taxi driver told me: "Cracker blood is going to run in the streets of Albany, and it's going to happen damn soon". Similar sentiment is evidenced from the kids in the street gangs who at one point were totally committed to the Movement program of non-violence, but as one said, when asked by one of the SNCC workers if he was coming down town to demonstrate: "I'm not walking downtown, I'll let my blood run down there for me". So you listen to this and know it is not a lot of smart talk, but the visible evidence of a reaction to the frustration to which they have so long been subjected. Then, with this knowledge, with this feeling of hopelessness and despair, you know that you have to go on preparing pleas which never get read, or that the SNCC kids go on getting themselves incarcerated and beaten, and you can only hope that people will realize what is happening in this town and that enough pressure can be brought to bear on the white leadership of the community to keep Albany from destroying itself. But, this must again be viewed in a context of an extremely limited time period: how long can kids keep going to jail and trying to convince a community which is not apathetic, but smoldering, when any hour the spark which touches everything of will be struck. I wake up every morning and am a little surprised that nothing has happened the night before, but I don't know how long this can last. The sporting goods stores in town have no more rifles.
Thurs and Fri 4th and 5th:
Spent the Fourth at a barbeque at the Nobles, a family very much involved in the Movement, who have two SNCC kids living with them. Great meal of ribs, chicken, and a whole lot of other "down home" food. It was a really nice party as most of the SNCC people were there, also a lot of relatives of the Nobles, and a group of kids who are on the Michigan Daily and are traveling around down here this summer. A day of independence is kind of out of place here. On last Friday we got Vera Giddens and 5 other kids out on cert bonds; they had been convicted of disorderly conduct on last Friday. We had quite a bit of trouble getting the money together for the certiorari bonds but Joni had raised $3000 in NY and SCLC sent down another $3000. Also on Friday morning the transcripts from the Friday trial were sent to the office and I had to go through them to check for errors, and then edit them for testimony we wanted get out for the record in the appeal. Also today one of the girls who had been kept out in Camilla (where I had a brush with the jailer came in and told us that he had been bringing police dogs into the cells and intimidating the children with them. Camilla is where all the juveniles are held). We have also heard that the cook or another kitchen person there is a sexual degenerate who is constantly touching the little girls who are sent out there. Unfortunately there is very little that can be done as Juvenile Ct judges are vested with tremendous power in this State, and the Georgia Supreme Court looks at mandamus with great disfavor. As things stand now we still have Thrower, Ricks and Perdew in jail. deLissovoy and Davis who could have come out on property bonds have elected to stay in with him as it is extremely dangerous for the white males to be in jail alone as they are put in cells with local whites who take great delight in beating them. In line with this, the guys who beat up Ralph Allen and the other two guys wore turned loose by the police, though they had quite a bit of time left to run on their sentences, and one of the Negro kids in jail saw the warden hand them some cash. Ricks is held on a State charge with Inciting to riot, and Lannie Mae Thrower and Perdew are being held on State charges of assault with intent to murder, a felony. The bonds for all three are about $1900 each and this money has been very difficult to raise. Perdew is really getting framed here. We have 7 kids who were with him the entire time during which he was supposed to have thrown a brick at a police car. One of the kids has even informed us that he knows who actually did throw the brick. However, if Perdew (a white SNCC worker from Denver) does go to trial, all evidence notwithstanding, he will surely be convicted. His parents have hired a white attorney from Americus to represent him and he has been offered a deal that if he pleads guilty to the City charges of disorderly and destruction of property and leaves Georgia the state charge will be dropped. He hasn't decided what he will do yet, but is very frightened aid confused. It is very clear to me that if he does take this out, assuming the State does live up to its deal which is debatable, every SNCC worker will similarly be arrested and charged with a felony to effectively break up their work here. It is only interesting that it has taken the local police so long to hit upon this solution.
The other day they arrested Prof. Oldfather (father of one of the SNCC girls) on a charge of driving with a faulty muffler, told him that he would not be charged if he took his daughter out of town immediately (he had been brought to the jail in handcuffs), and they immediately left town. As he is a professor of law at the Univ of Kansas, I wonder if he feels any uneasiness in facing his classes in September and talking about professional integrity, or if he will re-evaluate the concepts of law that he no doubt previously bantered about in his classroom. Perhaps this is an experience that should be pre-requisite to the teaching of law in our universities. Every professor should come down to Albany and be exposed to police methods, and court trial here. Then maybe they would not feel that they had fulfilled their responsibility by simply repeating "Thou shalt not commingle clients funds" and ignoring any aspect of a social responsibility which should reside in every lawyer. If an attorney cannot accept this responsibility, then it would seem that our society is in pretty bad shape, as I can't imagine who else will. I did have one pleasant experience on Friday. We prepared a subpoena duces tecum [to come to court and bring the records requested] to serve on the Superintendent of Schools of Dougherty Co, as the Fed Dist Ct for the Middle Dist of Ga will hold a hearing on Monday in the Albany School desegregation suit (Anderson v Board of Education). I had been given the honor of going to Mr. Cordell's office and serving him. He didn't come in until about 5:15 PM, but I didn't mind waiting. When he saw my smiling white face there was nothing to make him suspicious and I introduced myself and engaged him a in a few moments conversation before I stated the nature of my business and watched him turn a deep purple when I served him. These little pleasures help to keep you going here. I would especially relish making service on Chief Pritchett.
Saturday July 6:
This morning we were very busy as we had to interview jail the kids who were present when John Perdew was arrested. One little 13 year old boy was really beautiful. When I asked him (to test his reaction in case this is brought up at the trial) whether he would tell a lie, or even just tell a little story to save his friend from going to jail he said, "No sir, that would be a wrong thing to do and they tell us at Sunday School that we must never do wrong things". I also asked him it "who told you to march downtown and demonstrate" (as the police usually try to stick on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of minors) and he said '"No one told me to do anything, I'm walking for my freedom." This kid was 13! Also the parents in the school suit came into the office for a final conference today. Besides all the civil rights things, we still managed to squeeze in a couple of clients so that the Attorney can try to eke out some kind of a living. I drew up an option to purchase property, and also drew up a power of attorney form and guardianship petition in a pending land sale. Tonight there will be a mass meeting at Shiloh. (The Klan was meeting out by the airport tonight also; I was thinking of going but realize too well known in town, and too easily recognized to take the chance).
Sunday July 7
[Letter to the Law School professor who was supportive of my going south]Dear Professor Cole: I received your letter yesterday and was very happy with it. I shared it with Attorney King who joins me in the hope that the law schools of this country and the organized bar will pull their heads out of the sand and begin to realize that this is a problem that all Americans must solve, and must do so immediately. With this letter I am enclosing photocopies of the two "handbills" which the three kids were convicted of distributing in violation of a Statute which prohibits the distribution of advertising matter, 1 can only assume that in the mind of the honorable Judge Durden of Albany Recorders Ct, integration is a saleable commodity, and there is a "special" on Civil Rights today.
As for mimeographing my letter for distribution to the faculty, I have some reservations about this. I would certainly hope that you would first edit out some of the very personal observations I have made about various people here in Albany connected with the Movement. As for Chief Pritchett, tho I have not told him that I think he is a son of a bitch, I am sure that my feelings about him would not come as any great surprise, but I would rather that the letter be confined to the University itself. However, there is one thing which would bother me about this idea. I have grown very intolerant (in the past few weeks) of anyone who holds himself out to be a professor of law and yet refuses to see his responsibility to help remedy what is going on in America today. As you can understand, the reaction of Prof. Oldfather to what happened to him in Albany was one which I consider cowardice, and certainly not conduct becoming one who would teach the future attorneys, and help to form patterns of their responsibility to the law. Therefore, if you feel that a distribution of my letter, this one, and anything subsequent which I have time to send you, will only serve to titillate these people, with a kind of vicarious excitement (you know, "on my, how exciting) then I would certainly not wish to be any part of this. However, if you believe that this might serve to awaken some to something I feel is a duty of one in this position, then by all means, publish. Again, I wish that you would personally edit the contents, however, both to save me from law suits at the hands of various notables mentioned herein, and to save my friends in Albany some embarrassment — ie. Mr. Holley and his complicated love life. When I wrote, I really only intended it for you, but as you have presented this, I think that perhaps some good could be done with a distribution. As to your suggestion that I keep some form of diary, you will note that this is what I am doing by these letters. You are on my mailing list because I appreciate the interest you have shown in what I hope to do this summer, because I am sending copies to very close friends (and you are the only person at the Law School whom I would rather think of in this category, than as a professor) and because I know you understand what is happening here and can react to it. Also please note that you got the first letter before I learned of my final grade, so it was not the fact that I was delighted with my grade that prompted me to write. I think that the most important part of your censoring duties will be to convey my disgust with "The System" and law as it is practiced in Albany, Ga, but at the same time to strike "distasteful" observations that I might make. I will certainly keep writing, and hope to hear from you again. Also know that when I get to Boalt next year I will not be terribly patient when told by "knowledgeable people" not to go South and will do every damn thing that I can to let people know what time it is here, and to realize that law schools are not ivory towers where the realities of life never enter, but should be the places from whence action emanates. I only hope that when I get back to Boalt there will still be time left; because at least in Albany's case, I can't convince myself of this. I don't want to go into this at this particular time, but I am pretty well convinced that upon graduation I will apply for admission to the Georgia Bar. Not that I could stand spending my life in this Cracker town (even if everything were perfect here it would be a damn unpleasant place to live,) but I feel a moral commitment to put the legal training which I receive at Boalt to some use other than a way to accumulate the greatest possible amount of money in the least possible amount of time. Sincerely,
[When I returned to Boalt Hall that fall I was asked to speak about my experiences. The forum chosen by the school was the student lounge where the bridge players hung out. So I got up and started to talk about my observations of life in a racist community. I hadn't gotten very far when the bridge players, annoyed at any disturbance to their concentration, began yelling at me to shut up. I kept going. Then a few racist remarks were made, accompanied by the laughter of the entire group. I knew then that if I stayed I would hit one of these assholes with a chair, so I just walked out. I was walking down the hall, terribly upset at what terrible people I went to school with and who would soon be lawyers. I heard running footsteps behind me and assumed that it was one of these jerks who wanted to continue his diatribe so I cocked my fist, ready to spin around and punch him as hard as I could. As I spun around I was face to face with a guy with tears streaming down his face and between sobs asked me how he could go there next summer and be part of something so terribly important. Turned out it was Dick Duane who then spent the next summer in Albany.]
Monday, July 8:
This morning we went to the U.S. District Ct (Middle Dist. of Georgia, Albany Div) for a hearing on Anderson v Dougherty Cty Bd of Ed. Norman Amaker of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. came down to argue before Judge Elliot. The City argued that the Supreme Court was wrong in Brown v Bd of Ed, and that "separate but equal" is the necessary constitutional compliance. They also stated that it would be impossible to integrate the schools here as the "people of both races are against it"'. We asked the court to grant a temporary injunction, to integrate the first grade for the fall term, and to admit the 6 named plaintiffs to the schools they requested in the fall, also for the City to submit a plan within 60 days for full integration in 1964. Elliot didn't grant the injunction but advised that he would rule before the week is out. Our next step will be to appeal to the 5th circuit. The title of the case has been changed to Gaines v Bd of Education as Dr. Anderson now lives in Detroit where he is doing graduate work.
I took Mr. Amaker to the airport and then went back to the office to start typing the defensive pleadings for Tuesday's cases in the Recorder Court. This kept us going well into the night. We got a call from Joyce that the SNCC office had been shot into, the bullet went through a window pane in the door leaving a rather ominous hole. Luckily, no one was in the office at the time.
Tues July 9:
Rushed out to the airport to pick up the court reporter from Atlanta. At the last trial the Justice Dept provided a court reporter, but this was only because of the great amount of pressure put on them by the parents and friends of some of the kids standing trial. Today's cases were mostly local Negro kids, so no one from the Justice Dept. attended. As usual, they were into the same irrelevant crap. Instead of starting with the cases that were left over from last time, with arrests dating back to June l8th, the City first called the Sunday swimming pool arrests. We hadn't started to prepare the defensive pleadings in these eases as we didn't have time to do them and also with the backlog they should not have been called first. Instead, the first case called was Slater King and Mrs. Fannie Webb. They were charged under the loitering statute. Slater King, a Movement leader, and C.B.'s brother, was sentenced to 60 days (as an example) and Mrs. Webb got 30. Actually no case was ever even attempted to be made out against Mrs. Webb, who was standing near Slater, but never requested entry to the pool, nor was asked to leave. I sat next to her during the trial, and a1l through it she kept elbowing me and laughing, telling me "listen to that fool lie" when Pritchett testified. When the judge read the sentence she said "Give me 60 too" and she just laughed when the cops took her downstairs. She is a great funny older woman and with more people like her things would move here. Slater gave some excellent answers to the prosecution. They asked him if he were literate (signs stated, "Private Pool — White Only") and he told them that he was the product of a segregated education and had great reservations about his literacy. He also told them he wasn't really sure if he were a Negro; that his great grandfather was white, and he was very confused about his identity. "We tried to bond them out after the trial, but the judge pushed past by us saying he was in too big a hurry to sign a bond. So it means we just have to try and hunt him down to get this done. Burt Steck was then brought before the judge and sentenced to finish out the remainder of his 60 day suspended sentence on the old vagrancy charge as he was out at the pool Sunday also. The judge told him he tried to be patient and understanding but it was obvious that Steck was "only interested in causing trouble" so he would serve his time. Pete Rothstein, another SNCC worker was convicted on the same charge (loitering on private property) and given $102 or 30 days. When he was arrested one of the cops, officer Russell, kicked him. He testified to this in court and Chief P. really looked hurt that someone would accuse one of his thugs of any brutality. During Rothstein's trial the City produced the manager of the pool, Jimmy Gray, Jr., son of the owner of the Albany Herald. This kid was so dumb that with all the coaching and signals from a cop sitting next to the judge, he still answered the questions incorrectly and got into the record that the City, through Chief P. decided policy at the pool. The case was closed before the Chief realized what happened. Actually Chief P is the "acting" city prosecutor as Grady Rawls, whose job it is, seems to be asleep most of the time. He is an enormously overweight slob who puffs on cigars throughout and jumps up to object when Chief notices something and prods him. The Chief is a very shrewd man and certainly the most competent adversary here in Albany. He is very cunning and constantly alert to everything that happens in court. When he realized Jimmie Jr.'s mistake he had Rawls request that the case be reopened. Rawls claimed that the noise of the fan made him unable to hear the testimony, and the judge granted this. Then an officer went out in the hall, spent a few minutes with Jimmy Jr. and brought him back in to straighten this point out. With an officer signaling yes or no to him, they led Jimmy through it. The city's most interesting witness was Mrs. Hopkins, the ticket taker. She admitted that she didn't really know who she worked for. She used to work at the same job for the City, but now Mr. Gray owns the pool; it is also in the record that no one told her what to do so she continued the same policy. The tickets to the pool (we didn't have any) read "City of Albany Pool" but she testified that they didn't say anything about the city on the tickets. All through cross examination by Atty King she sat and glared at him. I have never seen such an intense look of hatred on anyone before. I felt sure she would have loved to kill him. The cases ran over into the afternoon and at the end of the day we finally got started on deLissovoy, Davis, Mormon and Daniels who were charged with disorderly conduct on the 18th of June. But court recessed before it was complete and won't go into session until next week probably. I am convinced one of the reasons for stalling like this was because John Perdew's father who flew in from Denver, had to leave town today and Pritchett knew this. Perdew is charged with destruction of city property and disorderly conduct, but also has a state charge hanging over him of assault with intent to murder. We have an excellent case which clearly shows his innocence, but this isn't terribly important in Dougherty County in the race cases. Here you don't think in terms of having the prosecution make out a case to show guilt, but rather you must establish a defensive proof of innocence and even then you get convicted. For me the only redeeming feature of the day was when Chief P forgot himself because Attorney King was making fools out of the Chief's boys. When Attorney called for a certain officer, Pritchett stood up and said, "he's on vacation C.B." Pritchett is the only one who always calls him "Attorney King" but today his temper got the better of him. Attorney calmly replied "Thanks, Laurie" and Pritchett turned a deep purple, shook a little, and finally sat down. I can't get over how fearless Attorney King is.
[He was the most fearless man I had ever met then and now. His life was threatened frequently, they poisoned his guard dog, poured battery acid on his driving seat burning through his pants.]
Tuesday night there was a small mass meeting held at Carver Park. deLissovoy, Davis and Perdew were there and told how they had fasted for 20 days. These three are amazing guys. deLissovoy is a student at Harvard and spent over a year in Africa where he was deported from 6 different countries. Phil Davis is an iron worker who lives in Berkeley and we have many mutual friends. Perdew is also at Harvard; he is certainly not the one try and stick with the felony charge as he is very slight, scholarly looking, with thick glasses. It's only a shame that we can't get his picture into the record. After court I had to go across the street to the County Court to get Perdew released on a $1500 bond on the felony charge (besides $300. with the City). On my way over I passed 6 young Crackers hanging out in front of a clothing store. As I walked by them I felt something burn my hand and realized that one of them had thrown a lit cigarette at me, but also realized that non-violence would certainly be the smartest possible tactic at this time as remonstrating with them would have gotten me a good ass kicking so I kept walking and ignored the calls of "Nigger lover" and "Communist".
Tonight Frank, Chris, and I bought a lot of beer, etc, and had a party at Frank's house for SNCC staff and to celebrate the return of the guys to the outside world after 20 days in jail. The moral and religious tone of the community being what it is, most parties are dry, so this was a welcome relief, and greatly appreciated by all. Frank's wife came down from Americus Wed. morning, so I was up very late trying to clean up most of the mess. Another great statement made in court today was made by Judge Durden, in relation to the anti-trespass (loitering) statute — that the difference between us and the Communists was the sacred right of private property. This is probably the most overworked and abused term today.
Wed July 10:
Today a group of 6 Negro kids, were arrested when they tried to buy tickets to swim in the pool. One of them was slapped by the police and lighted matches were thrown on him; more intimidation. C.B. went to the jail today to see how everyone was being treated.
On Monday Reverend Wells, and about 11 others walked down to City Hall to protest the jailing stemming from their attempt to use the pool Sunday. They were all arrested and Rev. Wells was dragged into the jail from the alley by his genitals, and is in very bad shape. The brutality of the local police is unbelievable, yet nothing is done, other than a perfunctory investigation by the FBI with the filing of reports and nothing more ever heard of the incident. Press coverage of what is happening here is miserable, and there is a great need for the people to know just what is happening here in Albany as it is everyone's concern. We spent most of the day preparing the transcripts from the June 28th trials for appeal. I had always wondered why, with all the Negro servicemen stationed around the area, you never saw any come to mass meetings. Today Attorney told me that he had spoken with a Negro at the Marine base who comes from somewhere in the North, who related that upon arrival in Albany the Master Sergeant told him that anyone who participated in any way with the Albany Movement would have the book thrown at him. This damn collusion between the city and state, with the local federal people is one of the hardest things to deal with as it is almost impossible to prove, yet everyone knows it exists. I would feel safer with the local cops than with the FBI here. When one of the kids came back from jail he also told me that Willie Ricks (who I once mentioned was from Albany, but is really SNCC staff coming from Tennessee) was forced on the work gang, put on bread and water and is in very weak shape. They are still trying to get enough bail money together to get him cut. The most upsetting thing is to watch what is happening to the Movement here. Attendance at mass meetings gets less and less — people are just physically exhausted and feel forgotten and hopeless. The SNCC kids spend the day canvassing neighborhoods talking up the meetings, and from some areas only one or two people show up. After a few weeks of this, it seems almost impossible to go back out canvassing again, but they keep on. As a group they are a remarkable bunch, although there are a few 1 am not crazy about as individuals. At this point they seem to be the strongest element in the Movement as the adults seem very discouraged and beaten down. The SNCC kids are very worried as at this .juncture it doesn't seem that a non- violent solution is possible. There is absolutely no communication with the- white power structure. The Negro community, or rather the more responsible element, seems bitter and dissolutioned and the only outcome of all of this seems to be that unless something happens that will put vitality back in the Movement the responsible leadership will wither away, and violence will take over.
Thursday: Started to try and catch up on a lot of the routine office correspondence that is months overdue. We also started a motion to cause the desegregation of city facilities which was heard in Montgomery along with an injunction against the police and city to stop them from harassing peaceful demonstrations. This temporary injunction had been denied by Elliot in the U S Dist Ct so that we will have to take it up to the Fifth Circuit separately.
[J. Robert Elliot is the My Lai judge, a real pig.][Note: Robert is referring to the infamous My Lai Massacre in Vietnam during which 300-500 Vietnamese civilians including women and children were slaughtered by American soldiers. Judge Roberts, an avowed segregationist, overturned the court martial conviction of Lt. William Calley on murder charges. Roberts was later reversed, and Calley served three and a half years under house arrest on an Army post.]
In the afternoon we went over to the SNCC house for a meeting with the staff. They are having some organizational problems in that they are not as effective as they obviously could be, and one of the reasons for this is that there is a tendency among the staff who have been there for over a year to assume all of the responsibility, and simply designate assignment to the staff who just arrived this summer. When you have been here as long as some of the senior staff one of the symptoms seems to be a lack of acuteness, and a tendency not to re-evaluate situations in the light of change, but to keep on with the same tactics. The newer people are all very bright, and certainly have a lot to contribute, but at times they are being frustrated. As the meeting progressed some of the gripes were aired for the first time and it would seem that some organizational changes will be made. One of the areas in which I feel SNCC could do some really effective work, and where absolutely nothing has been done, is among the "Saturday night" people. Canvassing among old ladies is fine, but they are going to come to the mass meetings anyhow, and they aren't going to demonstrate. The program seems to be that if you bring in the "less respectable" element, you will antagonize the old ladies and the ministers. This is the kind of refusal to think things through that is often demonstrated here. The ministers, for the most part, are opposed to Movement policy in varying degrees. Rev. Wells is a notable exception to this. None of them will march, and the rest run the gamut from allowing the use of their church for mass meetings, to counseling their congregation not to get involved in "that mess'", so I can't see how offending them is going to make a bit of difference. And these are the people who must be reached with non-violence as it is in them that all the potential for serious violence lies. Tonite I was speaking with James Daniels who told me that a car with 5 Klansmen in it drove by, stuck a rifle out the window and took a couple of shots at him. Also tonight a white Marine stationed out here at the Marine Base drove up to the railroad crossing on N. Washington St and shot at the Negro watchman, wounding him. He was arrested about an hour later and told the police, "I just felt like shooting a nigger". Things are starting to break in Americus (Sumter Co) a town of about 15000, about 5O miles to the north on the way to Atlanta. They have been having mass meetings and this evening a group of 11 went to the local theater and tried to buy tickets at the front entrance, instead of going around to the alley where tickets to the Negro section are sold. They were arrested for disorderly conduct, failure to obey a police officer and loitering, and although Recorders Ct only meets on Monday, they were tried Friday morning and given 60 day sentences.
Friday July 12: This morning I drew up a motion to continue a hearing with the Georgia Real Estate Comm. (they are trying to take away Slater's license to be a real estate broker). This is the kind of thing which goes on constantly, which makes it almost impossible to maintain the Movement. If a working man is seen in a demonstration, he is immediately fired. Sharecroppers are thrown off the land. Slater can't be reached that way, so state power is brought to bear against him. It is only a matter of time before they try to disbar C.B. on one charge or another.
[They were never able to pull this off, much as they would have loved to.]
We have been advised by guys stationed at the Marine Base that when a Negro arrives on base (same for the Air Force base here) he is told that if he participates in demonstrations or has any connections with the Albany Movement-he will be court-martialed. We are trying to find a guy brave enough to sign an affidavit to this effect and will then try to put pressure on the Govt. Today we had to pull Steck and Rothstein out of jail. They weren't in that long but were put into cells with a group of crackers who had razors, and a knife, so we couldn't take the change of leaving them in. I guess I am starting to adjust to Albany living, because it doesn't bother me when the cops follow me around. At first you get very self conscious; wherever you drive there is a cop car right on your bumper, and as soon as he turns off, another picks you up. Now I expect to see them and if I drive somewhere and am not fallowed it is unique. 0ne,'s whole concept changes down here. Things you never think about, just ordinary action such as walking down a street, take on a whole new perspective. You have to wonder if you will be arrested for vagrancy or loitering. When you see whites on the street you wonder if you should cross to the other side in case they recognize you; it is very hard to verbalize the feeling of never being sure that you are safe. All the trivial things that one never gives any consideration to, suddenly become very important. You don't jaywalk under any conditions; if you stop at a meter, even if just to run into a store, or if you wait in the car while someone else runs in, you put money in it. For the first time the Constitution becomes immensely important and real to me. First Amendment guarantees that we constantly take for granted are here denied to the people, and you realize how vital and alive this document is and how unbelievably bad this country would be without it. You never give any real thought to the right of free speech, or that of peaceful assembly, until it is denied you.
In the evening Dick Gay, owner of the poolroom, bar and several other establishments in Harlem took us out to the Disabled American Veterans restaurant for shrimp gumbo which was great. There is nothing sadder than a disabled Negro war veteran — to get shot up or loose limbs for "our Democracy" and then return to Albany, Ga must be a special kind of torture. After dinner I went by the SNCC house and sat around with the people there, and helped letter signs for picketers to carry on Sat; most of my suggestions for the wording were voted down by the more religious element.
Sat. July 13: Today was the greatest day in Albany's history. The Tift Park Pool (now owned by James Gray) was desegregated. James Daniels, Randy Battle, and Randy's cousin went up there about 9 AM, climbed over the fence, dove into the water fully dressed, swam around for about 5 minutes, climbed out and walked out the exit and down the street. All the little white children jumped out of the pool and started screaming for the police. The life guard pretended he didn't notice anything unusual, and the cops were so dumbfounded that they just stood around and didn't do anything. Eddie Brown got some pictures of this historic event, and when they get published by the Southwest Georgian (weekly Negro press) it will do much to raise the people's spirits. By Sunday everyone in town will know about this. I talked to Randy after he came out and he said that water has never felt so good. The thing that was hardest to figure out is that here they had valid grounds for arrest (one of the rare times they do) and yet the police didn't arrest. But 15 mts later 6 Negro women and kids, also Betsy Wycoff, presented themselves in an orderly manner to the ticket taker, tendered their money, and requested a ticket to enter the pool. They were arrested for loitering. I might have mentioned this in a previous letter but Randy Battle, James Daniels and Eddie Brown, are leaders of the largest Negro street gangs in the city, and they have been doing a lot of work for SNCC, and have kept the violence to a minimum. Daniels is from CME, the roughest territory in Albany. He is about 23 though he claims to be 13, tall and muscular, very dark with processed hair (called a "do") and a broken nose — one of the most striking people I have seen here. Eddie Brown is a little shorter, very handsom, neatly conservative in dress; two of his front teeth are ringed in gold. Brown leads a gang from out at Six Points where most of the Negro night clubs are located. Six Points and CME used to war until the Movement came to Albany and the leaders of the gang signed on.
[Randy Battle died recently. He and Peter deLissovoy were best friends and they saw each other constantly after the summer when Peter stayed.]
In Albany most of the Negro neighborhoods are designated by the name of the main church there. CME is Colored Methodist Episcopal. AME is American Methodist Episcopal and people don't necessarily tell you what street they live on — they say "I'm from CME".
Also today 10 kids went out to the homes of the Wetherbees and Haleys to picket them and were arrested and juvenile petitions were taken out against them. These are the two wealthiest white families in town and the real force behind segregation here. Both are on the Board of Directors of the First State Bank; Haley owns the Ford agency and most Coca Cola bottling plants in the area. Wetherbee owns most of the plantations in Dougherty and surrounding counties. Around 11 a.m. I went down to see Judge Durden to bond out Willie Ricks. Ricks has been on bread and water since the 28th of June and for a while was being forced out on the work gang. Of course, the same crap starts all over again. Judge has to very carefully consider the idea of the cert bond as though he has never seen one before; then it's too late to get the City Treasurer to receive the money; then the street warden is out so the transfer to county jail can't be affected. Later Ralph Allen came into the office with Danny Lyon, a photographer working with SNCC out of Atlanta. They were going out to "Terrible Terrell" county and wanted to know if I would like to go along. C.B. said I could go if I wanted as there wasn't much going on in the office, so we picked up Wendy Mann and Faith Holsaert (SNCC field secretaries) and drove out to Sasser, Ga. Sasser is one of the meanest cracker towns in the South; it was here that two churches were burned because people were having voter registration meetings in them. Here also an FBI man was beat up by one of the boys as "another damn outsider". Ralph spent most of last year doing voter work out in Terrell, so he is very well known, both in the Negro and white communities. This can be very dangerous.
[I must have been out of my mind going out there. Interracial friendships were strongly discouraged often stopped by arrest. Probably some macho bullshit on my part since Wendy was also with us.]
We went out and spoke with the Breuner family; their daughter Johnni Ruth is very active in Sasser and throughout the county. Then we went up the road to Leroy Shannon's, a sharecropper on land owned by one of the wealthy white families. We stayed at his place about an hour, and it was really nice. He had a bunch of pigs and other farm animals and insisted on showing us how his crops were doing, and how his wife puts them up. He told us to come by anytime and pick all the vegetables we want. Then we drove out to Dawson where Ralph spent some time in jail and was beaten several times. We visited Carolyn Daniels, the beauty parlor operator whose house was shot up by the crackers when she let some of the SNCC workers stay there. She told us that voter registration is progressing very slowly as the people are scared; they are afraid for their jobs, that their churches will be burned again, afraid for their lives. It is very upsetting to find that people are being denied the right to vote today, not because of tricky literacy tests or the way they are graded (although this goes on too) but by a wave of terror that grips these outlying counties. The Klan still rides in this part of the country and the people have seen too many lynchings and church burnings to be very brave. Carolyn Daniels and a few like her must carry all the work on their shoulders. The other day she was arrested for "speeding" and her license revoked for 90 days. This was because she had been carrying people down to register to vote. After we came back from Dawson I took Wendy out to the DAV to eat as we hadn't eaten all day except for some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which one of the people in Terrell Co gave us. After we sat down, some guy and his girl friend asked us to join them at their table, and later invited us to their house for dinner next Sunday. Then another guy came over and after he left 3 more people asked us to join them. It was great because these people are inviting you, so it is very clear that they want to talk Movement, not like when SNCC goes around knocking on doors asking if you have a few minutes to talks about the Movement, as whenever a white person comes to a Negro's door here it either means cops or insurance agents, so the people are prone to agree to anything just to get rid of you, and the SNCC kids get a very distorted idea of how the community feels about anything. These people at the DAV are never reached by the Movement as they work all day and spend their nights out at the clubs. But all of them expressed great concern and promised to come to a mass meeting Monday night. It is much easier to talk to people over a drink and find out how they feel about things in this setting as they are relaxed, in circumstances which they feel very comfortable. People keep telling you how glad they are that you came to help them, and it is hard to make them understand that we didn't come to help them but came to help ourselves — that when Albany, Ga is rotten the whole country is rotten, and that none of us can live anywhere when people can't live in Albany. You also learn about things that people never talk about when canvassed at home. Out at DAV or the other Negro clubs people will tell you stories about their work, their relationships with the boss, etc. Here you get the real undercurrents of discontent as the suspicions are less and the people more relaxed. They are naturally suspicious of any white who comes to their home, as this only means trouble, but in a bar which is familiar to them, when they invite you to their table to share a beer, then things are on a completely different basis. I also experienced a strange thing. One of the people who came over to our table seemed annoyed that we didn't recognize him, as he insisted that Wendy and I had both been to his house. We discovered that he was talking about two other white SNCC workers who don't bear any physical resemblance to us at all, except for skin color. You suddenly realize what it is like to have no identity, the "all those people look alike to me" thing; and you can start to understand how a Negro must feel going through life, faceless, designated not by name, but as "boy" or "uncle" with absolutely no individual identity in the eyes of whites. It was good to have felt this, because although I understand that a white can never really feel what it is like to be a Negro, this kind of experience helps the necessary awareness one needs to get insight into the situation here.
Sunday July 14:
Last night a Negro was shot to death in Leary, Calhoun Co by the police. They came to his house to arrest him for fighting with a white man, and the official report states that he refused to take his hand out of his pocket, and pulled a gun; no further investigation will be made.
Things are also starting in Americus. Saturday night a group of 17 were arrested for picketing the local movie and also having a "stand-in" at the ticket office. The picketing arrests in Americus are very interesting in that the ordinance was passed at an emergency session of the council on Sat afternoon (one of the provisions being that free speech can only be exercised between the hours of 9 AM and 6 PM) and the kids were arrested that evening. We got Willie Ricks out of jail today. Tho he was supposed to be transferred to County on Sunday the police "forgot" and he was still in on Sunday. C.B. sent me down with $1000 to bond him out (he doesn't like to go into County jail as that's where sheriff Campbell hit him with a cane splitting his head open. When I came down to get him out one of the officials asked me "you come after a nigger", and I politely told him, "No, a Negro" and he just got a real surprised look on his face and didn't say anything more. We worked until late typing the pleas for the kids arrested in Americus who are to be tried on Monday morning. I am sure glad I took a typing course in high school; probably the most valuable thing I learned in that oppressive place.
Interestingly the Judge read all the defensive pleadings ( a change from Albany ), but then convicted them and sentenced everyone to 60 days or $106. This is the maximum sentence allowed for the Recorders Ct. I had no problem getting into the cells, however, and this will make it easier on C.B. when things start getting hot in Americus as I will be able to make the drive up to get the facts from those arrested.
Monday July 15:
Went up to Americus for the trials. This is a really primitive place, but on the whole, the court officials (judge and city prosecutor are a lot more civilized than in Albany. They call C.B. "Attorney King" when addressing him. C.B. says this will only last until they realize that the Sumter Co Movement will not disappear in a few days, and then the harassment will start here too, but right now it is a pleasure to work there.
C.B. constantly teases me about losing my identity; he says I become more Negro every day; that when I deal with the cops he notices I start shuffling and mumbling, "yessir, thank you sir" every few minute. However, this civility in the courtroom is not carried outside the doors. On my way into court a guy walked up to me and said "We don't need no nigger-lovin' New Yawk lawyers in this town; go on back to Moscow". People here constantly equate civil rights and communism. Later when I went down to ask the desk sergeant if I could make a local call on the police phone, which courtesy he refused. I started out the door when a guy walked up to me and elbowed me hard in the ribs, in front of the Sgt. I must have turned purple with rage, but pulled myself under control and walked on as if I didn't notice it.
Anyhow, the court was just the usual circus you get in the Recorders Courts when civil rights cases come up, and a lot of the good townspeople turned out for this show. The judge looks very young, and wears a University of Georgia ring with the Sigma Nu insignia on it. No one up there seems to know very much law, at least concerning this area. They had no idea what the city provisions for certiorari were, and after I found them in the code and showed it to them, no one really understood who had the authority to do what. Before our case was called, of course they saved it for last, so it was after 2 P.M. when we got to proceed. Before our case there was a disorderly conduct case (but not a civil rights case) brought against a group of about 7 Negroes (2 different families who live next door to each other). C.B. says this is known as a "nigger mess" in the local courts. One family had retained a white attorney to represent them. He called them by their first names (not a gesture of friendship but to let the Negro know that he is a lesser being not entitled to a courtesy title), or referred to them as "those three"; the grandmother who must have been over 70 was called "girl" by both counsel and the judge. The court has a very paternalistic approach in these cases; very similar to scolding naughty children, and the people being tried showed good evidence of "the system" in operation.
Tuesday July 16:
Today we tried the rest of the cases in Americus. A group of 4 kids had been picketing the movie, protesting the fact that they had to go around the side to buy tickets and sit up in the Negro balcony. They had picketed in the afternoon, then the council met in emergency session and passed an ordinance which prohibits picketing other than between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and they were arrested that same evening. It is interesting to note that in Americus one can exercise free speech until 6 p.m. and then constitutionally protected rights vanish with the sun. Again this group got 60 day sentences. The kids in Americus are very enthusiastic as the Movement there is just starting out, and they are quite willing to go to jail for freedom. The local SNCC worker is Don Harris, a grad of Rutgers, and he is doing a great job. They finally let the juveniles out of jail in Camilla today. Last night Mrs. Singleton, who has two kids in jail, called the Judge at 2 A.M. to tell him she couldn't sleep, worrying about her babies. She also told him that she was praying for him and "every prayer I ever prayed has been answered". There is an interesting story concerning the power of prayer in the South which C.B. told me. It seems the Negroes of Miss. prayed for Senator Bilbo and he died of throat cancer; anyhow this morning the juveniles were turned loose after about 8 days. In line with this prayer thing, Sheriff Screws (who beat Bobby Hall to death in Baker County back in the Forties) is now paralyzed. Sheriff Campbell who hit C.B. with a cane is hospitalized with a bad heart and his wife died of cancer today, and the guy in Camilla who kicked Slater's wife and caused her miscarriage was struck by lightening the other day, and the people keep on praying.
Pritchett is back up to his old tricks. Today Davis and deLissovoy were arrested again and held on "suspicion" for which you can hold someone without charges for 72 hrs in Ga. Their "crime" was to walk down the main street with two Negro guys. Pritchett's image in the Northern press, "the cop who copes with non-violence by non-violent methods" is a complete farce, yet most of the people who come down for a few days to interview him are completely taken in. No one ever stops to consider that this so-called prevention of violence is achieved by prohibiting constitutionally permissible conduct and enforced by illegal arrests. Democracy ceases to have any real meaning in this context as police power has suppressed the constitution here.
Wed. July 17:
Today everyone (except Lannie Mae Thrower who has been in since around June 20) got out on property bonds as the City has decided to try these cases (some of which go back to 6/20) until 7/26. We spent most of the day working on certiorari to Superior Ct on the cases already tried. C.B.'s non-civil rights practice has deteriorated to almost nothing, as we just don't have time to do anything but run between here and Americus trying cases and working on appeals. Davis and deLissovoy were released today — we really couldn't figure this out until we learned that deLissovoy's grandmother is a close friend of Lyndon Johnson and she finally heard that he had been beaten by the cops when arrested. Bobby Kennedy sent a personal note to the local FBI for investigatory action, and Pritchett just found out about this. Today we learned that a church in Sumter Co was wrecked, all the windows shattered, and the inside gutted (this is how they deal with anyone talking about voting in the counties). The smaller towns are filled with fear. The other day a Negro was shot to death by the police in Leary, Ga but the family was afraid to talk to C.B. about it. Nothing has ever been done about Annie Hayes, the girl who was raped to death in Sumter County and her parents are terrified also.
Thurs. July 18:
SNCC tried an interesting experiment with their phone today. They called up two people from the office and told them there was to be a major demonstration on a certain downtown corner. Then a few went down to see the area suddenly fill up with cops. On Monday we go down to Newton, Baker Co (where Claude Screws was once sheriff),
[Sheriff Screws was reportedly a monster and every black in the county feared him. After he murdered a black soldier who had returned from World War II with an Italian officer's pistol. When he wouldn't give it to Screws who had heard about it he killed, some say tied to his car and dragged around the courthouse until dead. Finally the federal government acted and he was, I believe he was the first 18 USC 242 prosecution ever. And an all white jury in Albany, drawn from all over the county, convicted him. Hard to believe that a white jury would do this but then, in the 40's whites were often very paternalistic towards blacks. Not a decade later.]
Mr. Charley Ware (who was shot in the neck 4 times by the sheriff a few years ago), is now being tried by the state for assault with intent to murder (no doubt for pushing his neck into the sheriff's gun), and C.B. and Don Hollowell from Atlanta are handling the case. Hollowell has asked the Justice Dept to send someone down and C.B. asked the local FBI to come along, but they are "too busy" — it is certainly a sad commentary on things here when an attorney needs Federal protection to get into a court to defend his client; the last time Hollowell was in Newton, Baker County, the sheriff beat him. Today I went to the jail to bond out Mrs. Webb who finally agreed to come out. I asked the desk sergeant for Mrs. Webb. He said, "you mean Fannie Webb don't you boy" and I told him "I came for Mrs. Webb.
I also went for my Georgia drivers license today. When I got to the building I walked into the first door I saw and noticed that only Negroes were applying for licenses. Then I discovered that the State has partitioned the building (a Quonset hut) into two sides according to race. I am not exactly sure what caused me to do this, perhaps because I was already on the Negro side, and perhaps because the whole idea of this classification is so ridiculous, but after I got 100% on the written test and was given the license blank to fill in, 1 marked an "N" in the race box. The State Trooper looked at the application, then at me, and back to the application for about 2 minutes but never said anything. Then he threw the form back at me, said "do it in ink" and when I finished, gave me my license. If nothing else, at least I've solved my identity problem, and if I do get arrested it will present an interesting problem about which side of the cell block to put me.
[The idea that I was black was quite common. After all I was living in a black neighborhood, working for a black attorney and I had kind of kinky hair.]
At this point something should be said about the role of the Justice Dept in prosecuting cases here. In the very few cases that they do seek to bring (only when the brutality was so shocking that it relieves nationwide attention, such as where a Negro is beaten to death with a blackjack) they always seek a Grand Jury indictment (some that that is rarely, if ever, given). Since they could prosecute without first going to the Grand Jury it would seem that the Government would rather avoid brining these cases and escape its responsibility by letting the all white Grand Jury take the blame for it not coming to trial. This is an area where the Govt should be pushed, and pushed hard. It doesn't matter if they won't win a case before a Southern all white jury; they must bring these actions, and constantly, so that everyone here will learn that the Govt is vitally concerned with deprivations of civil rights. With the action starting in Americus 1 am afraid C.B. will work himself to death as this trip is about 80 miles round-trip, and it is impossible to give effective representation to people in both places; here is the compelling need for the law schools to help them develop a conscience to prepare future lawyers to have a social responsibility — that people in out-of-the-way areas like southwest Georgia get if not a fair trial, at least good legal representation so as to be able to form a record for appeal
A recent issue of the New Republic carried an article on Albany. It was typical of the inaccurate reporting, with the misconceptions, misstatements, and absurd conclusions, all too frequently found in articles on the South. The writer's conclusion is that the movement in Albany was tactically wrong that demonstrations and an attack on all forms of segregation at once were foolish, and that the best solution would have been through the courts. This would seem to assume that you don't have one attorney who works throughout Soutthwest Ga, but dozens of attorneys, all with nothing to do but provide legal representation to all the people arrested for civil rights "crimes" and to file suit after suit in the court system. There are only a small handful of Negro lawyers in the South. Certainly the southern bar associations do not now, and probably never will see its responsibility here. Then who the hell is supposed to bring these suits. NAACP has a relatively small staff, and they must serve the entire South, but this writer smugly views things here from NY or Atlanta and decides that "legal action" is the answer. Articles of this nature are a great disservice not only to the brave people of Albany, but misinform the interested and genuinely concerned people throughout America.
Friday July 19:
Drove us to Americus for juvenile hearings in the morning. Under Ga law the juv. ct judge has enormous power guided only by the provision that he act "in the best interest of the juvenile." Judge James Smith, a rather heavy set old man, had a complete lack of understanding of the situation. He spoke in terms of' "tnat mess" and that the kids shouldn't get involved in it. He told them that at is wrong to protest, that they should stay out of it, though in school they learn that free speech and the right to petition for redress of grievances are not only permissible, but must be encouraged if a democracy is to function. The saddest commentary was when he announced in a very hurt tone that "I have really tried to keep these kids out of trouble...I don't send them away...I make them memorize the 10 commandments and waste my time having them come in and recite this, because I feel it is important enough, and after all I have done for them, they turn around and get into this mess". The great white father is upset as the naughty children have disobeyed and he translates this into a direct insult to him, "they just don't appreciate all I have done for them?" This is the white mentality of the South. Judge Smith also decided that the juveniles couldn't go to any church for any reason if mass meetings are being allowed there; then he told the parents they could be released after payment of $16. "rent" to the county jail for their room and board while locked up awaiting hearing — those who didn't pay would be sent to Industrial School. The Sumter County Movement finally got the money together, but they are very poor and will have a lot of trouble once the City starts making them come up with cash bonds like Albany does.
Sat. July 20;
Today there were 41 arrests in Americus, mostly picketing and loitering charges. We phoned Judge leSueur for a continuance as on Monday we have to be in Baker Co Superior Ct for the Ware case, but the civility of Americus is starting to fray and he gave us a whole lot of trouble about the continuance and wants to go ahead and try everyone without an attorney. Hollowell is sending someone from his office today to argue with the judge about the continuance. Today something happened that can only happen in the South and only to Negroes; it isn't the kind of open and notorious violence that makes the papers, but it is a very typical of a kind of intimidation and evidence of the second class citizenship which confronts the Negro daily. A middle aged woman, her husband, son, and 3 little children drove down from South Carolina to visit their daughter and son-in-law (a Marine in Albany). They left Fri eve and arrived very early Sat am. Around noon police arrived at the house in Albany staked out the yard with armed officers, kicked the door open, cops with shotguns entered, and hauled the husband away without explanation. The woman was hysterical, phoned her son at the Marine base, and he came by to see C.B.. We phoned the police who told us they were being held for "investigation" on behalf of the Dublin, Ga. Police, who charged them with speeding, fleeing from an arrest, and shooting at the police. The woman told us no one was speeding (they had driven thru Dublin at around 4 am) that they never owned a gun, that they never saw any police. The family is very poor, they all work in the textile mills and are paying off a house, and this trip was for 2 days to visit the daughter — their only vacation this year. The Dublin police arrived at 6 pm and finally everything was explained. It seems that around the time they drove thru Dublin the cops had been chasing moonshiners in a Ford (they owned a '56 Ford) who shot at the police who said they got away. They police went to a nearby gas station and asked if he remembered some Negroes in a Ford; these people had bought gas there and had a conversation with the white owner in which they mentioned they were going to visit in Albany. The gas station guy remembers them so told the cops and knew they had SC license plates. Dublin called to Albany to search for the car, and the arrest resulted. So on this kind of information the police break into a home with shotguns, arrest people, hold them for 6 hrs without allowing a phone call or giving an explanation; finally the Dublin cops (who had said they had definitely put a few bullets into the car, arrived, and established it wasn't them, and they are released without any apology, but with the feeling that they were damn lucky to get off so easy. I had sat and talked with this woman most of the time her husband and son were in jail and saw the nightmare she was going through. When they left Albany she said she would never leave her home again. This cannot happen anywhere but in the South an only to Negroes, and it happens all the time. Today I heard about a Negro girl from KY who is visiting relatives here. A white man in a gas station saw her, asked around to find out who she is, and has been making obscene calls to her trying to get her to meet him, etc. She phoned the police in Albany and they told her to set up a meeting and let them know. She agreed to meet him in downtown Albany, and after waiting five minutes and stalling him, she made up an excuse and got out of the car (the cops never arrived). She went to the station and they told her they forgot, or were detained or something like that but that she should call if he bothered her again. The next day he called and wanted to meet her way out in Terrell Co; she phoned the police and they told her to meet him; that they would certainly be there. A friend of the family phoned her and he told her to stay home or this girl would most likely have been raped with the tacit consent of the police. Of course, when it is a Negro male and a white female involved, things are entirely different.
Sunday, July 21:
This morning I heard that "unidentified persons" threw a yellow dye marker into Tift Park pool late at night. This and a series of other acts of vandalism would seem to indicate that the local kids have reached their breaking point. The gang kids are coming to the SNCC Office much less frequently than usual. On Sat night I visited the SNCC office for a while to talk with John Perdew. A little while after I left 4 bullets smashed thru the bedroom window mid wall, narrowly missing Perdew and Daniels. The slugs traveled into the apartment next door, smashing into a picture shattering glass over a sleeping woman and her baby, and another embedding itself in a chair (if the chair weren't there it would have hit them. The police came out and investigated and now want Perdew, and Daniels to take a lie detector test about it before they investigate further.
In the evening 1 drove to Americus to try and get into the jail to find out how many had been arrested and for what charges. The Chief wouldn't let me in nor give me any info. "Send lawyer King to see me because they ain't cooperating with me, singing and making noise in my jail, so l ain't cooperating with you". Before I went to Americus we spent all day in the office working out details on the Ware case to be tried in Baker Co Superior Ct Monday. I wrote up a motion to quash the indictment and a plea to abate: we also did research into the assault with intent to injure and the public drunkenness charge. State v. Charlie Ware is a criminal prosecution based on an incident that took place in Baker County, Ga on July 4, 1961|; Charlie Ware (against whom Sheriff Johnson held some sort of a grudge) went to a picnic at Ichauway Plantation. The plantation manager, Guy Touchstone, claimed Charlie was drunk and disorderly (though he said in his deposition that Ware was trying to break up a fight). This took place in the afternoon. Around. 2:00 in the morning, Sheriff Johnson drove out to Ware's sharecropper's shack, pulled him out dressed only in pants and an undershirt, no shoes, searched him and took a pen knife off him, and drove him to the police station. They had no warrant for his arrest for the drunk misdemeanor tho one was readily obtainable. When they got to jail Sheriff Johnson claims Ware pulled a knife (tho he was thoroughly searched) and to save himself, Sheriff put 3 bullets into Ware's neck and shoulder. I saw the bullet holes which enter his neck and shoulder on the left-front and come out the right-rear, except for one which is still in his shoulder, and it is unbelievable that he is still alive. Anyhow Ware sued the Sheriff under the federal Civil Rights Statute but the jury found against him, so now the State is charging him with assault for allegedly attaching the sheriff with a knife. I am not looking forward to going to Baker Co. It is really primitive.
Early Monday morning we got into the car and drove down to Newton, Baker Co., Georgia. We carried Attorney Hollowell from Atlanta who has been working on the Ware case from its inception, Charlie Ware and his pregnant wife Louise, and Robert Leo Daniels, the eye-witness to the shooting. If you could remove yourself from the frame of reference which is ever present, the trip down to Newton would be a pleasant one indeed. Driving in the bright morning sun you travel 22 miles of well paved road, lined on either side by slash pine which occasionally interrupt to afford a view of lush green fields dotted with grazing Black Angus beef cattle. Actually, as the scenery rushes by, you momentarily forget where you are, and enjoy the peace and serenity of the countryside. Then the sign "Baker County'' and you know you are in the bailiwick of High Sheriff L. Warren Johnson aka known as Gator. County signs always affect me adversely in Georgia as though I have never been there before, the names are indelibly impressed in my mind, and seeing 'Terrell, Lee, or Baker" in bold black letters always makes for frightening reality. It goes very quickly after that — across the highway bridge you see a water tower with "Newton" painted on it, and an automatic reaction drops your speed to 20 miles per hour, as this is no place to be stopped by the police for any reason. Now it's only a two minute drive past rickety sharecropper shacks, a white frame church, past Madam La Donna the fortune teller or palmist as she bills herself, a filling station, and you are in front of the Baker County courthouse. On the left is the county jail in front of which the sheriff pumped three bullets into the neck of the handcuffed Charlie Ware; to the right a few hundred yards up the road is the bridge to Mitchell County, the bridge from which High Sheriff Claude Screws, under whom Johnson got, his training in "law enforcement", dragged Bobby Hall from where he had tied him to the bumper of his car and up to the artesian well next to the court house where he beat him to death for half an hour with a steel blackjack. A stone wall runs completely around the court house and leaning against it at the front of the building are the local citizens, come to see the circus. Dead eyes stare out of stone faces as we alight from the car; this is something they have never seen before, but the only emotion registered is a kind of calm hate. We enter through the rear entrance, walk past the "White Only'" drinking fountain and the "White Male only" toilets (Negroes of both sexes use a shed outside, which also serve for storage purposes, and climb the rickety stairs to the court room. The building is old and decrepit, and the people inside bear it a striking resemblance. The downstairs part of the courthouse contains various county offices, and upstairs the court room and two small ante-rooms. Inside the courtroom the whites sit on the main level and Negroes are relegated to a roost in the balcony which is hot as an oven. The courtroom itself is disgusting; paint is peeling off the walls, spittoons which haven't been cleaned since the Civil War clutter most of the floor apace, and hot stale air is pushed around the high ceilinged room by old fashioned fans whose constant hum makes it almost impossible to hear anything. The judge sits behind a high wooden bench, also badly in need of a coat of paint, and rocks back and forth in a squeaky chair. Behind him is an American flag and a paint flecked wall, bare but for a small sign which ludicrously proclaims: "Keep Smiling". The bailiff, an incredibly old man with a parched pock-marked face, no teeth, a long pointed nose and rabbit ears announces the presence of the Honorable Carl E. Crow, and Baker County Superior Court is in session.
C.B. immediately introduces a motion to quash based on the arbitrary and systematic exclusion of Negroes from the Grand and Traverse (trial) Juries. We elicit testimony from the County Clerk, a Mr. Leslie Bush, and others, that no Negro has ever served on a grand or traverse jury in Baker County for as long as anyone can remember. To this the audience murmurs its approval. Bush has a pronunciation problem as whenever he says "Negro" it comes out "nigger". After about the tenth time, Atty. Hollowell objects to this and Bush replies "they've been niggers all my life and I'll go on saying it; this is the first time I've ever heard anyone object". 0*Neil, the State Solicitor has a little better pronunciation; from him it comes out "nigrah" but occasionally it gets slurred. Hollowell's motion that this is prejudicial gets promptly overruled. In the course of arguing the motion Sheriff Johnson is called. He is a huge man, 6T2" tall weighing 246 lbs, with little pig eyes, reddish balding hair, and a red complexion which ranged to purple when he got mad. He was a real crowd pleaser, and caused the overall clad audience to occasionally laugh and smile, an act which seemed to make their leathery faces crack. H. I. Hudson, the tax collector, also testified. He is emaciated (there seems to be a fantastic amount of inbreeding among these people — they either run to huge proportions like Sheriff Johnson and the Kelleys' (who are relatives o:f his) or to exceedingly thin withered men like the Hudsons' or Bush.) His hands are deformed with some sort of palsy so that he cannot turn the pages of his tax digest. We elicit that there are 760 white property owners in the county and 400 Negroes (total population of Baker County is 4500), but it has only been since 1961 that Negroes occasionally get on the jury roll (never on an actual jury) and Charlie Ray the jury commissioner blurts out that after the white names are added to the jury roll of potential jurors, a certain percentage of Negroes are then included. By the time we got finished the argument on the motion it was time for lunch. There is only one restaurant in Newton and there was no question in our minds about the possibility of getting served so we drove the 22 miles back to Albany.
After lunch we got started on the first charge against Charlie — drunkenness on the public highway (misdemeanor). The defendant doesn't get voir dire in a misdemeanor, but simply 12 strikes. This is no bargain in Baker County as it is impossible to get an unbiased jury and the 5 strikes that the State gets was enough to exclude the three Negroes who had been put on the jury roll for that term. The panel that was assembled consisted mostly of farmers who wore either overalls or khaki pants and short sleeved shirts. Everyone had been born in Baker Co and the few who had been anywhere else (other than Albany) were in the military. After their service was up they came right back home. This arrest had taken place in late May, 1961. Charlie had asked his friend to drive him home and had gone to sleep in the back seat. The car was stopped by Deputy Sheriff Ben Johnson, the High Sheriff's kid brother, and Charlie was arrested on this charge. Case law would seem to indicate that the purpose of this statute is to prevent people from making a spectacle of themselves by being drunk outside frightening women and children, etc. but the jury stayed out 15 minutes and found Charlie guilty as charged; for sleeping in his car while another drove. The judge was fascinating to watch; every few minutes he would lean way over and let a big gob of tobacco juice fly towards a dirty spittoon, which he did manage to hit on rare occasions. Most of the audience chewed tobacco and those who weren't near the spittoons simply spit on the floor. When I mentioned this to C.B. he said that this was the best behaved audience he had ever seen in Baker County. They generally bring whiskey into court and get roaring drunk during the trials. As the court is only convened twice a year, it is a big social occasion, and for a trial of this magnitude everyone who could get away from the cows and pigs was in town. The sheriff was very courteous to us; the last time C.B. and Hollowell had him in Federal Court they raked him over the coals and it seemed that he didn't want to take the chance on antagonizing them again and get made a fool of in front of his constituency. Though Sheriff Johnson only has a 5th grade education and strikes one as barely literate, he is quite shrewd. In his term as a law enforcement officer for Baker Co. he has managed to kill two Negroes (also killed two women when he smashed into their car while drunk one night, but that doesn't really count) and shot and beaten many others; he is as feared as he is hated, a symbol of the ugliness, filth and corruption of the system. There were no unpleasant remarks directed toward me. The sheriff was overheard asking one of his friends if he thought I was "a white man or a nigger" and his friend responded that "he sho' looks white, but he must be a nigger sittin' up there with them other niggers". I don't remember if I had mentioned this previously, but we asked the local FBI to come down to Baker Co with us, as it's a very dangerous place. Of course they told us that they were much too busy.
On Sunday night Hollowell phoned the Justice Dept in Washington and requested the same thing but they refused to take any responsibility. They said that "there is no federal issue here" when we asked them to protect our surprise white witness, the cowman. When we got back Monday night we worked well into the early morning making preparations for the next day in court. I also found out that SNCC has started to reorganize; they sent four girls out to Terrell to do voter registration work and 3 guys into Lee for the same purpose. This is very vital work and 1 am glad they are getting back into voter registration, but 1 really don't think sending 4 girls into Terrell (three of them white) was one of the smarter moves they have made, and I am very afraid something might happen out there.
[Wendy was one of the four.]
Charlie Ware took the stand in his defense on the misdemeanor. Charlie is about 5*5" tall, and weighs about 140 lbs, a rather ridiculous picture is presented when he walked past the Sheriff whom he is supposed to have grabbed around the neck and attacked. It would seem that the Sheriff could crush him with one hand. Besides his very slight build, Charlie wears very thick glasses without which he can barely see, and looks years younger than he really is — around 47. He has 6 kids and his wife is heavy with another (all boys). Right now he is living in Albany (C.B. got him out of Baker immediately after bond was posted, though he spent 19 months in jail until bond was gotten up) and works in a gas station. At first Charlie Ware is a title of a criminal case, but after spending a week with him and watching the anguish he must go through, seeing his 6 kids and his wife in their tiny house, watching the Sheriff stare at him and knowing what must be going through his mind at that point, then he is no longer State v. Ware, but a very real, warm, good-natured human being , someone who asks nothing more from life than a decent job with which to support his family, and one against whom the weight of a mighty State is being unjustly turned, to save face and to perpetuate the most inhuman system man has ever known.
Tuesday was a cloudy, overcast day. We left late and had to drive through Baker way over the speed limit. However, there isn't much danger as all the cops (there aren't that many) are hanging around the courthouse waiting for the fun to start again. We stipulated that Charlie's other public drunkenness charge (from July 4, 1961) and also the assault with intent to murder would be tried together, and started with a selection of a new jury. The first names of some of the people are extremely interesting, there was a Deloy, Duraat, Braxton, Idus, Lamar. Alto, Alton, Vester, Turner, and Hopson. Actually, the first names are sort of interchangeable with last names in that you could take any two of the above names and make a whole name. Another interesting fact that came out in the voir dire was that almost no one in Baker County reads the newspaper. They have a tri-county paper besides the Albany Herald and the Atlanta Constitution; only one of questioned read the Constitution, two read the Herald, two read the local press, and about 30 others didn't ever take a newspaper. The basic facts in the case are these: Every year Ichauway Plantation (pronounced "plan nation") which is owned by the Woodruff family of Atlanta who own Coca Cola, has a big party for all the Negroes who work there and those who live around Baker County. One of the people there, Bud Walker, got into a fight with his common-1aw wife Rosa Lee Jones. Her son, Coke Walker, (you see the Woodruff influence) started to join in, swinging a soda bottle, but Charlie stopped him. That was testified to by a number of people. Guy Touchstone, the white overseer the plantation said that Charlie was rotten drunk and dangerous, tho he also testified that he never had seen Charlie before, never got closer than 15 feet to him, that he was neatly dressed, spoke clearly, and didn't stagger. But he insisted that Charlie was drunk and ordered him off the premises. Charlie left. Local gossip has it that Touchstone has a Negro concubine and that she had eyes for Charlie, so this is what provoked him to report to Sheriff Johnson that Charlie was drunk and causing trouble. Anyhow, instead of swearing out a warrant, Touchstone doesn't do anything for the rest of the afternoon. In the late afternoon he had a severe attack of kidney stones and the Sheriff rushed him at speeds of 115-120 mph to the Camilla Hospital. Sheriff said that Touchstone was in intense pain, writhing on the seat of the car, moaning and screaming, yet during this 5 minute drive managed to tell the Sheriff all about Charlie being drunk and that "he's dangerous and if you don't arrest him tonight he'll hurt himself or somebody else". Anyhow, after this the Sheriff starts out looking for Charlie. He drives out to his house, about 16 miles out in the country at least 3 times. There was testimony from the "Cow-man" (he is a white man named Jack Markham who breeds and cares for cattle) that the Sheriff has been drinking, heavily. Finally Charlie comes home around 2 AM on the morning of July 5 and the Sheriff along with Frank Jones come out to his house again and arrests him, without a warrant, on the misdemeanor charge of public drunkenness. Frank Jones is not a deputy or acting in any official capacity, but rides around with the sheriff quite a bit. There was a deputy Frank Jones who was with Screws and helped beat Bobby Hall to death, and we aren't sure if this is the same Frank Jones, or is his son. Anyhow, Sheriff testified that he completely searched Charlie and found a little 2" fingernail knife which he took; that he never handcuffed him, but drove him down to the jail; that he reached over to the glove compartment to get the jail keys when Charlie pulled a knife from somewhere (tho he also testified he never saw or felt the knife) grabbed him around the nock and said, "I'm going to cut your god damn head off." The sheriff (who had been leaning stretched across the seat on his right hip to reach the glove compartment) somehow managed to pull his gun which he wore in a holster on his right hip and put three bullets into Charlie. Charlie says that when the Sheriff got him out of his house he accused Charlie of hiding out, put him in the car, handcuffed him, and hit him with his gun butt above his eye (which required stitches to close). On the drive in to town Jones asked Charlie if he worked and if he owed his boss any money. When Charlie told him he didn't owe any money, Jones said, "it's o.k. to kill this nigger, he don't owe his boss, so the most he'll lose is a good hand". When they got to the jail, Johnson let Jones out, then parked in front of the jail, took a 7 inch switchblade knife from his pocket, dropped it next to Charlie, picked up the car radio-phone, said "there is a nigger coming at me with a knife and I have to shoot him" and then started shooting. In the front cell of the jail about 25 feet away was a taxi driver from Albany who had been arrested earlier that day. He saw the whole thing and corroborated Charlie's story. An attempt to cross his name out of the jail record book failed; so did an attempt to get a warrant the next day for Charlie's arrest and back date it. Two people testified to the fact that Daniels (the Negro taxi driver from Albany) was in the front cell: but the State also brought in two Negroes to testify that Daniels was in a rear cell with them (one is currently in jail in Camilla, and the other was a driver for ex- sheriff Screws}. A lot of testimony was given on Tuesday. At noon we were invited to the Miller's farm for lunch. These people are fairly well off by Baker County standards. They are a big family and own their own farm. Mr. Miller is a product of the night time integration that is practiced heavily in plantation country. Except for his hair he looks white, with the lightest blue eyes I have ever seen. In the back country you see some very odd families, several coal black children and one who is very, very light skinned with green or blue eyes. Mrs. Miller is a great cook. She filled the table with a mountain of food, two different kinds of chicken, about 5 different vegetables, corn pone, everything in huge serving bowls. When the 3 of us got up from the table another 8 sat down.
There is a very interesting guy in the jury. He is much younger than most of them and worked for Eastern Airlines in Atlanta.
The sheriff's daughter has been in court every day since the start. She is a very striking girl, not really that pretty, but beautiful long black hair. She doesn't resemble the sheriff at all, but bears a striking resemblance to Deputy Sheriff Ben Johnson, High Sheriff Johnson's younger brother. Why the Sheriff's daughter resembles Ben and not the sheriff, is one of those great mysteries.
It started raining today and the courthouse roof leaks. There was a constant drip right next to our table, so the bailiff came over and put a spittoon under it to catch the water. After it filled up slime and tobacco juice spilled out and onto the floor. Another interesting bit of testimony today: seems that after sheriff shot Charlie 3 times he then rushed him to the hospital (a great humanitarian). Charlie, ingrate that he is, is supposed to have bitten the sheriff on three different occasions (all of this with a guy (Frank Jones) sitting behind him with a pistol pressed to his head, and Charlie with 3 bullet holes in his neck.) The trial got a little heavy; the Judge has seemed to stop following, just spits from time to time and cleans his ear with a paper clip. The state solicitor put his head down on the desk and went to sleep this afternoon during some of the cross-examination. He is assisted by B.C. Gardner, Jr., an Albany attorney who is hired by the State as he represented the sheriff in Charlie's Civil Rights suit against him. Gardner has a short grey crew cut, kind of pudgy and soft looking, with watery blue eyes and no chin. He reminds me of a sick penguin. O'Neil, the State Solicitor is very distinguished looking, grey-streaked hair, seems in very good physical shape. Dan Redding testified today, that Charlie wasn't drunk at Ichauway, but tried to stop the fighting that was going on. Dan is a real "Uncle Tom". He is chauffer for Woodruff (who rarely comes to Ichauway, except to hunt) loves to entertain and play up to the white audience. In his charge to the Jury, Gardner said of him: 'Old Dan is all right, yessir, Old Dan is a good old boy". He just sat there and played the clown, completely without any self- respect; this is what the system does to people. Another interesting thing. Mr. Bush, the Clerk, has a wife who is deputy clerk of the County. She is not pretty at all, has a very hard, mean face, but a striking body. Looking at her you get the impression that Bush might have gotten his job not based entirely on his competence. During the trial the doctor had Charlie take off his shirt to point out the bullet holes. Mrs. Bush started to wriggle in her seat and got a very strange look in her eyes. Mr. Bush saw this and started to get purple.
Today we unleashed our big surprise, the cow man. He pushed the sheriff's car when the battery died on the night of the 4th of July and testified that the High Sheriff had been drinking. Markham (the cow man) is Catholic, so has felt some of the prejudice and hatred that the South has to offer anyone "different". He moved from Baker Co last year and swore never to return, but we convinced him to come and testify. He is a segregationist, but a very honest man and couldn't sit by and watch Charlie get framed, so he risked his life to come back to Baker and testify. When he walked into the courtroom, the Sheriff turned white and looked like he would faint. When he came into the court, he was told to wait outside as we had another witness on. Hollowell followed him outside and saw the deputy (Ben) sneaking up on him. When Ben saw Hollowell he turned and went back inside. After the cowman's testimony was finished we asked the court that he be excused as he had to go back up to near Atlanta where he is now working, but the State would not allow this tho they never called him for cross- examination again. We heard that the local boys were planning to follow him out of town and murder him for "turning against his own" like that; also today two of the FBI came down from Albany to testify for the State about a statement that Charlie made to them. When they were excused I went up to one of them, Agent Bolyard, and asked if he were driving back to Albany then. He said he was and I said that he would do the cow man a great favor by driving up behind him as the cow man was frightened for his life and that we had heard these rumors. He said that there was no point in doing this as "there isn't anything we can do anyhow, it's out of our jurisdiction." I couldn't believe he could stand there and tell me it was out of his jurisdiction when a man had a good chance of being murdered and told him if I were driving behind him and saw a car pull him off the road and some guys jump him I, as a private citizen, could certainly effect an arrest, so why can't you. He got very evasive, said something about how they don't act as private citizens. Then I told him that if they were to follow him up to Albany, it was obvious that no one would try anything with the cow man and asked him if he would do this. He didn't reply, so 1 told him I would tell the cow man that they would. 1 ran outside, told the cow man, and ran back to tell Bolyard and Agent Cheek where the cowman was. When I got back (about 30 seconds had elapsed) they were gone. One can't prove any collusion between the FBI and the local law enforcement officers, or the local citizens, but things like this certainly make one wonder just where they stand. This isn't an isolated instance by any means. The other day the SNCC house was shot into 4 or 5 times. The local detectives and FBI came around but did nothing.
We also put on Robert Lee Daniels, the taxi driver who was in the jail and saw the entire shooting. He testified that the sheriff got out of the car just like Charlie said, pulled his pistol, and shot him three times. Daniels made a great witness as they couldn't terrorize him like they can the Negroes who live in Baker Co. He refused to ever say yessir, as Gardner called him Robert. At one point Gardner asked him how he could be so sure the sheriff had a pistol in his hand if he was standing in shadows. Daniels said, "I told you, I saw fire jump out three times and I was sure it wasn't a slingshot". Another time Gardner wanted to know how he knew that the sheriff got into the car since this was on the side of the car out of Daniels' view. Daniels said, "I saw him walk around to the door. I heard it open, I heard the door shut, the car drove away and he was gone. I guess he must have gotten in and drove away with it". During the testimony one of the boys in the courtroom pulled out a fingernail clipper and started working on his fingernails. The first time he did it, Hollowell and King jumped about a foot, as it sounded like a pistol shot.
The jury went out around l0:15 am Friday and stayed out until after lunch, quite a long time for a Baker Co jury to stay out when a trying a Negro. When they came back they found him guilty as charged, but recommended that it be reduced to a misdemeanor, which almost killed the audience. The judge saved the day for the local boys by denying the jury recommendation. It would seem that this is some indication that there is hope even in Baker Co. Maybe these people haven't reached a point where they will not allow a Negro to be sent to jail on a trumped up charge to save the sheriff1s face, but it did seem they wanted to mitigate it as much as possible. We couldn't expect more and there doesn't seem to be much of a problem getting this reversed as it was so full of reversible error as to be unbelievable. I guess I must be getting very complacent about the court system in the South. I don't expect to ever think of getting justice at the trial court level. When a Negro is involved in an incident with a white, or in a civil rights case, trial court is simply the place to build your record for the trip up the appellate route. You can only hope for justice once you get over into the Federal side. We were worried, first that Charlie might have to stay in Baker County jail for a few days. We were convinced that Johnson wouldn't mess up the job this time; Charlie would have been shot trying to escape, and that would have been the end of it but the Judge allowed a property bond instead of cash, and we got the Mille family to sign for it, so we took Charlie back to Albany with us. As Mr. Miller said when he signed the bond, "I couldn't sleep tonight, knowing that Charlie was sleeping in the Baker jail, and this voiced the sentiment of all of us.
Sunday July 28 was a very uneventful day.
I was invited to C.B.'s mother's house (Mama King) for dinner, along with his brother Paul and wife Amaya. Spent the rest of the afternoon over at the SNCC office talking with Ralph and James Daniels. In the evening the four girls from Terrell County came in and we all went out to the DAV for supper. C.B. had gone by the post office in the afternoon and we received Judge Tuttle's opinion in Anderson v. City of Albany (the suit to desegregate the city facilities.) The court ruled 2-1 in our favor, Gewin, J wrote an elaborate and prosaic, if slightly irrelevant dissent. Anyhow, they remanded it back to the U.S. Dist Ct to issue the injunction against the City. Of course, this is primarily a moral victory as the City has since sold the Tift Park pool to private owners who discriminate based on "the right of free-enterprise, that bastion in our American way of life", but there is language in the opinion which might indicate that the Fifth Circuit would be willing to hear argument that the sale was solely to facilitate State segregation — we will have to see.
Monday July 29
On Monday it seemed as if the day would never end. We left here about 1 pm and drove to Americus for hearings on the 16 juveniles arrested about a week ago. They were three groups of charges: blocking the sidewalks; interfering with an officer making an arrest; and parading without a permit. The parade consisted of about 15 kids walking two blocks downtown. The interfering with an officer was really ridiculous — it seems that while the cops were loading the "paraders" into a grain truck which serves as a paddy wagon in Americus, a group of'5 kids came by to watch. One of the cops yelled, "you want to come along too", and they promptly jumped into the wagon. The blocking of the sidewalk charge came when two people were standing one behind the other at the white ticket window of the movie waiting to buy a ticket (by custom in Americus they would have to wait forever). Anyhow, the presence of two people, standing next to the building sufficiently blocked free passageway of the sidewalk to cause their arrest, tho the Chief testified that a white line going around two blocks doesn't block the sidewalk. Anyhow, the Juvenile Court judge is starting to crack down. He put most of the kids on probation after making them pay room and board, also turnkey and other assorted charges to the sheriff, but two of them were on probation from the Industrial School for other charges, and since he considers peaceful protest a "crime" he has written to the School to see if they want to revoke probation and send these two back. Well, Judge Smith rambles on a good many hours in his little homely lectures on the virtues of learning the 10 commandment and of going to church (but not if they are using it for Movement purposes) and it was about 6:00 before he finally got done. We then had to drive the 40 mile back to Albany, and then another 60 miles to the southeast, to the city of Thomasville in Thomas County, where C.B. was invited to speak at a bi-racial council. He brought me along because he thought the change would do me some good. Not that Thomasville is any marvelous place, but it is simply one of the many smaller towns around Albany that are scared to death of having "an Albany" of their own — they are looking to the future, and see the possibility of new industry passing their town by as it has avoided Albany in the last few years. Thomasville has about 25,000 population; it has two Negro policemen (a rarity in the South) and opened a few petty city jobs to Negroes. Though the Council hasn't really accomplished much, It is a very necessary structure to have in existence, as the only way the Negro is going to get any place is to take to the streets (note Cambridge, Md.) but you will then need some sort of forum where things can be worked out, so it is easier if this exists already. It was a really beautiful thing to walk into this very modern building and see six Negroes and six whites sitting around a conference table. Black and white sitting together is something one rarely sees around here (other than in the SNCC office or at mass meetings) and my initial reaction was almost one of shock. As I said, they aren't accomplishing a hell of a lot; the whites expect constant reassurance and approval that they are doing a marvelous and magnanimous act, and the Negroes have the impossible job of trying to convince them that their people aren't satisfied with d whole lot of talk and two desegregated drinking fountains, but at least the forum is provided, Moultrie and Brunswick, Ga. have also made some strides, both based primarily on fear of having a repetition of Albany in their cities — it is only Albany who can't learn from Albany. We stayed pretty late and then drove back to start preparing pleas for Fitzgerald, Ga — this is another little cracker town about 75 miles to the East. Seems about 21 kids went down to the City library and staged a sit-in on the steps when they were locked out, and were arrested. I had been feeling sick all evening and finally had to go home. I must have gotten some kind of flu as I was awake all Sunday night and couldn't stand up Monday morning. C.B. went up to Fitzgerald without me and tells me 1 missed quite an experience. The "judge" there (no law degree) completely ignored the fact that the defendants had counsel — he would occasionally cut off C.B.'s cross-examination to "speed things up", etc. Being sick caused me to wonder what happens if C.B. gets sick; this problem hasn't come up before, but actually he can't get sick as there is no one to take his place, just as he can't take a vacation. I came in Wednesday morning but still wasn't feeling too good. Everyone around here Is some kind of minor medical expert and offers all sorts of terrible tasting remedies in dirty old bottles, which generally taste very much like chalk, but is "sho good for stomach ills" and it is a great offense to refuse this, so I drank lots of bitter chalky stuff, some of which I found out later was ulcer medicine as this is what the person who gave it misunderstood my problem to be.
We prepared the transcripts for certiorari for Slater and those tried with him, also some of the first Americus trials (in Americus you get 20 days for certiorari, not the standard 30 days). We also took depositions in a case C.B. has against the insurance company that insured Mt. Olive Baptist Church of Sasser, Ga (one of the four churches in Terrell Co that was burned last year to register the protest of the good white neighbors against all that voter registration business- that was going on there). The insurance company is now claiming that it canceled the policy shortly before the fire, but we have a pretty good chance of winning this (at least on appeal — in this context you never consider winning a case at trial court level). Anyhow, around noon I couldn't take it anymore; C.B. said I looked kind of green, so I went back to Frank's house and went to sleep. I got up around 5 and felt fine, some of the ulcer and assorted other medicines I was given probably helped, and I had heard there was a meeting out in Terrell County so I went over to SNCC and went out with them on the bus. The SNCC bus is something else; it was a gift from someone in NYC, it used to belong to a Reform Democrat Club, is painted red, white arid blue, and very well known in the area. Also it is about as mechanically unsound and still running as any vehicle can be. Everything under the hood is held together with wires, and when it doesn't start people kick it violently, which usually gets it going. About half way out to Sasser, which is real bush country, the headlights went out. We spent a very hectic half hour trying to get them fixed, knowing that any minute kindly old Sheriff Zeke Mathews would be coming by, just delighted at his catch, but we finally got them working (one of the guys had to sit under the dashboard and hold the wires in place) and made it out to Sasser. The meeting was held in a tent on the burnt out site of old Mt. Olive, and there were about 25 people from Albany (some SNCC kids and a lot of local teen-agers working with them) and about 25 from Terrell Co. It was a really great meeting. These people have been intimidated, beaten, burnt out, thrown off their land, but they keep on fighting for freedom, keep going around trying to get their more timid numbers to go down and register, and the spirit felt at this meeting was very moving.. When everyone sang "We Shall Overcome" at the end, you can really believe it. SNCC has sent four girls out to Terrell to do voter registration work. Last year Ralph Allen and Charles Sherrod were out here, and Ralph was badly beaten, and arrested several times. Prathia Hall is the head of the group; she has been working in Southwest Ga for quite a while now, the only Negro in the Terrell Co group. She is originally from Philadelphia. Faith Holsaert, a student from Barnard is also working here. She is the girl who the cops were messing with when she was locked up in the Albany jail. Also Wendy Mann, graduate of Skidmore College, lives outside Boston, and Sue Wender from Detroit, student at the Univ. of Mich. Great girls, all very capable, but I worry about them as Terrell is a whole lot worse than Albany. It is very hard for whites to work in the counties, first because of the hostility of the white community (they are much more easily identifiable) and also because the farm Negroes are very suspicious and afraid of any white, but so far they seem to have been making progress. They took a few people down to the courthouse to get them registered. Terrell Co has about 12,000 (60+% Negro) but before SNCC came into the county they had only 40 registered voters. Last year they got about 130 more new people registered, besides recruiting a lot of local people to help them canvas. On Thursday we did some more work on the certiorari's, also worked on pleas for the trials in Albany tomorrow. Pritchett again allowed me into the jail ( it is very hard for him to be consistent, today he was all smiles and very gracious). I had to see Lannie Mae Thrower, who was arrested June 24th and has since been in jail, about 5 weeks now, as there wasn't enough money to bond her out and they wouldn't allow her out on property bond as they did most of the others pending trial. She is charged with the same kind of thing as John Perdew — state charge of assault with intent to murder, and a city destruction of public property for throwing a pop bottle at a police car. We have three witnesses who were with her when this supposedly happened, but it won't do much good. What happens here is that a lot of people are standing around, some kids in the back of the crowd start throwing bricks and bottles, and the cops grab the first person they can, then swear that is the one they saw throw the bottle which broke their window, and there is very little you can do about it.
We also got a call from a Reverend in Bainbridge, Ga (near the Florida border). It seems that there the voting officials are marking Negroes ballots to see how they voted so we might be bringing a suit down there soon. They still maintain segregated voting lists and segregated voting places. Also the other day a 15 year old Negro girl who was baby sitting had the unpleasant experience of having the father of the family for which she was working come in and undress in front of her, and tried to force her into a sexual act. She ran out and her mother reported it to the police who told her to swear out a warrant with the justice of the peace as there was nothing they could do. At times I think my accounts of what happen here read very matter-of-fact, but this is only because your senses get very dull to the behavior of the whites and the humiliations Negroes are subjected to daily, and all these things start to seem like just another occurrence to be set down on paper. I don't know whether it's just that I'm damn tired, or have been here too long, but it takes a whole lot to upset me now.
There is a very interesting thing going on in Macon at this time, and an excellent example of the speed, power and efficiency that can be used by the Federal Govt in this area when it wants to. There was juror named Carl Smith who served in the civil trial of Charlie Ware v. the Sheriff (suit for damages). Smith owned a grocery store in Harlem with an exclusively Negro trade. After the verdict some of the people started to picket his store, word got around, it was locked up and he claims he was put out of business. Some say as soon as the picketers appeared he locked his door and claimed he was put out of business, no doubt planning to sue the Movement leadership. Anyhow, there is a Federal Statute which makes it a crime to interfere with a juror both during his service and after based on his service
So far the government has subpoenaed about 70 people to Macon for the grand jury presentment (including people from Detroit and NY). They had sent a team of about 70 FBI investigators into Albany who spent five spent days investigating. Here we see that the Federal Government can take quick and large scale action when they want to, but when a Negro is beaten or murdered by the local police or the SNCC house upon at best you get an investigation by the local FBI agents; perhaps a report filed somewhere, and that is the last anyone hears of it. You can imagine the fear in the Negro community, the fact that the US wants to enforce one of its laws, but puts its full weight here, but not when Negroes are murdered under "color of law." Anyhow, the government won't have any trouble getting a true bill from the grand jury.
Once again the Recorders Court in the city of Albany sat to dispense its own special kind of justice. First on the calendar were James Daniels, Lucille Mormon, Pete deLissovoy and Phil Davis whose trial was started the last time; they were being charged with disorderly conduct. James is a big gang leader from CME who is very involved with SNCC now and does a great amount of work for them and has brought a lot of his people into the Movement, ie. Lucille , a young girl from CME who was never active until James got involved. CME is considered the roughest neighborhood and so is James' gang. Pete and Phil are two white SNGC workers, among the most active of the group, and very good people. Davis is from Berkeley, and Pete is from outside of Chicago, a student at Harvard who traveled throughout Africa last year. Both these guys are very "aware" in a very meaningful sense; they have been working with Daniels out in CME. Actually they were responsible for James coming into the Movement. deLissovoy is a very crackerish looking guy, light blondish hair, light blue eyes, small build; Davis is somewhat bigger, with a dark complexion, about my age — Pete being quite a bit younger. Grady 'Rawls, the City prosecutor, was at his best — he is an enormous, disgusting looking man, huge belly and several chins, very hard of hearing, usually with a soggy cigar mashed in his mouth. His questions were so ludicrous that I couldn't help smiling. Rawls announced to the Court "those that sit with counsel are grinning and sneering at me and I find that obnoxious". Then Rawls made a face at us, he is quite a bit of a baby at times, but Judge Durden, who was extremely nervous today (when he gets mad he starts rifling the pages of the judgment book on his desk) ignored the whole thing, other than to have us identify ourselves again. He said he knew me, but wanted to know who Liz was. Durden is disturbed by this whole thing; he can never look at C.B. when he overrules an objection, and speaks barely above a whisper. James Daniel's testimony was terrible for the case; he got rattled and then very angry, and when Rawls asked where he was going, said, "we were marching downtown to go to the movie". Rawls said, "don't you know you can't get a ticket there, you were going to go so you would get arrested", James said, "that's right". Then they called deLissovoy back and asked him if he were arrested in South America. Pete said he had never been to South America, but had been to Africa and was arrested there (he had been deported from the Union of South Africa, and had problems with the police in about 6 other countries because of his racial beliefs). He is an extremely brilliant and articulate person, and seemed to enjoy the stupidity of Rawls questions. Then Rawls asked "When was the last time you were in Russia" and Pete told him he had never been there. Rawls also asked him "do you have any Communist affiliations". C.B. was objecting all through this, but Durden, for the first time that day, seemed to be paying attention, and overruled the objections. Clearly this line of questioning had no bearing on whether they were guilty of disorderly conduct in Albany, Ga. C.B. told them there was no foundation for questions on economic or political views unless they are admitting that these arrest a were for conduct against the social norm of the community. Pete was also asked if he had attended Highlander School or Dorchester (similar voter registration school), which is about to be investigated by the State HUAC). deLissovoy answered all the questions and never got rattled, but was his best when Rawls asked if his activities were regulated by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pete said, "my activities are regulated by my conscience". After a couple of more idiotic questions trying to make him out to be an "agent of a foreign power bent on the violent overthrow of tradition, etc" with a fabulous salary paid in Russian gold they let him off the stand, and the good judge found the four of them guilty — $102. or 30 days. We had $1000 left in the bond fund so I went down that afternoon and with the usual running around finally got them bonded out. After I corrected the desk Sergeant that Mister Daniels and Miss Mormon were Negroes, and he didn't say anything more, I was really happy. The next case called was Lannie Mae Thrower — she has been in jail for 40 days because there wasn't enough bond money. She is also held on a state assault with intent to murder charge (like Perdew). She is about 3O years old, mother of 2 children, under 5' tall, and supposedly hurled a bottle 100 feet through the window of a police car. This is one of these arrests made in Harlem on a Sat. nite. A lot of people are milling around, a bunch of kids start throwing bricks and bottles at the cops who are down there harassing them, and the cops grab the first person they can catch. Durden started to sound like a humanitarian; it is possible that in his own mind he believes she is not guilty. Anyhow he sentenced her to a 60 day probation.
Carolyn Daniels owns a beauty parlor in Dawson, Terrell County. Her house has been shot up several times when Ralph and Jack Chatfield were staying there last year. Carolyn is a very bright woman, very interesting, but also very unpredictable. Like many of the very intelligent Negroes you meet here, she is hopelessly frustrated from a lack of anyone to talk to, but has found an outlet in the Movement, while so many others leave school and wind up as junkies in NY. Living with Carolyn is very hectic proposition as she reputedly has a very extensive love-life and occasionally tells the girls to go back to Albany for a few days, because a friend is coming to visit. Prathia Hall is the leader of the three, a very big Negro girl, very matronly looking, immensely popular with the church ladies, she has no trouble getting established in any of the county communities. Faith is white, with a very olive complexion. When she walks around in the white community with Barbara and Carolyn' s daughter, who is also very light skinned, the people assume she is Faith's daughter, a product of the thing they fear most — the specter of miscegenation, and tho nothing has happened to her yet, she says the hatred is so open and obvious as to be very frightening. Wendy is a very pretty girl with light brown hair, and a source of great curiosity to the Negroes in Terrell County who have had very little personal dealings with whites. A group of guys will come over to Carolyn's house and spend the afternoon just staring at her and Faith. In Albany the Movement has been around sufficiently long so that whites are no great novelty and even the white community is used to seeing black and white together (tho they still react in the same way, generally by spitting at you) but Terrell is new to this, and a lot of times you get the feeling that people don't even listen to what you are saying, they are so fascinated by the whiteness, which has so long been held out to them as some kind of damn virtue. Anyhow, things are starting to move in Terrell County as far as voter registration goes, but it is a long slow process. Terrell has 12000 people, Negroes number some 67 percent of the population, which would be about 8000, yet only about 159 are now registered. In Albany, registration is only a hassle; you never seem to have the identification they require, or the office had to shut early, or some other irrelevancy, but in Terrell County, to register means to lose your job or get thrown off the land. None of the Negro teachers will register and students have been thrown out of school because of this (in Georgia you vote at 18). This is where the 4 churches were burned down and the landowners have announced that any Negro who attends (even for worship) the churches that they are rebuilding will be put off the land. But they have started a citizenship school which meets once a week, they registered a few people the other day, one more yesterday, and a couple have promised to go down during the week.
The 3 kids are also trying to get a community center started as the youth have no place to meet, and aside from the church, there is no social center for the adults. I just heard something that happened on Friday night. Mrs. Christian, mother of the Christian girls who are in every demonstration and have been arrested, beaten, and otherwise mistreated by the police countless times, was arrested (she has also gone to jail for demonstrations along with Javon, LaVetta, Jamesina, Jo Ann and Dolores, her daughters). The police chased a group of teen-agers into a restaurant in Six Points but the kids got away. When the cops saw her sitting there they just arrested her and charged her with disorderly conduct. Her brother-in-law and the woman who owned the restaurant asked why she was being arrested and mistreated (they twisted her arm behind her and pushed her through the door) and they were also arrested, for interfering with the police. I thought this might touch things off as she is an immensely popular woman, and a bunch of the gang kids got their guns and started to round up others, but things cooled off. People started going around the streets to collect money to bail her out, and I think the three have been released on bond today. On Sunday I didn't do much, mostly finishing up these letters. I went over to Box Bottom (north side) to see some people and heard that the white grocery owner in the neighborhood just kicked some old man, so the people will probably start a boycott out there. Box Bottom is a very poor area where the people don*t have much to do with the Movement (except for Randy Battle who is very involved). Randy is very much like Eddie Brown, very handsome kid, used to be in a lot of trouble with the police, did some time for cutting someone, but has now started to work with SNCC and is very effective in the Box Bottom area, getting the kids interested in the Movement.
Liz Holtzman, one of the students who came to town a while ago has been working in the office ever since. At first I was very much against her staying and both C.B. and I were very skeptical about the whole thing, but she is a fine girl, works very diligently doing any job given her without complaint, and has completely identified with what is happening here. A friend of hers from Harvard also showed up here. This kid is unbelievably bad, antagonizes everyone he comes into contact with. He has a real paternalistic attitude to what is happening here "the great white hero down from the north to get the darkies free" kind of a thing. Anyhow, he will be leaving shortly so we just ignore him. C.B. is far too good a person to tell him to get lost, so he hangs around the office, and now has enough sense to keep out of our way.
So, they took poor Liz off to Macon to the grand jury hearings in the Carl Smith matter. We couldn't figure out why they wanted her as she wasn't in Albany when the picketing was going on, but it turns out they subpoenaed her about a meeting in the office to prepare the Grand Jury witnesses for Macon. Also someone tried to run over Phil Davis while he was doing voter registration work.
[Bear with me as I may discuss this later (also this has suddenly become triple spaced with large type and I am clueless about computers as to how to make this normal again. Someone here will know and help me. When about 7 blacks were subpoenaed to the Grand Jury sitting in Macon C.B. was out of town. He called for a meeting to be held in his office which he asked me to conduct. However, I was terribly ill which might have food poisoning and I had been in bed all day, leaving only to vomit.
So he (or maybe I) called Liz and ask her to conduct the meeting. We have never taken Liz with us anywhere. It is bad enough for them to see a white male with C.B. King but OMG, if they ever saw a white woman. Because of this she had been relegated to research (of which she was excellent) but never sat in on the preparation of our witnesses. If she had she would have learned and taught them the answers to the two magic questions: you talked about this with Lawyer King didn't you and the witness would answer no believing that meeting with the attorney before testifying would get them both in trouble. And C.B. would correct them. "the answer is yes, aren't you sitting here meeting with me right now". Generally the follow question was "What did he tell you" expecting "nothing" as the answer but would say "here is what I am telling you, I am telling you that when you get up on that witness stand, you must tell the truth." But she didn't know about the traps so she instructed all of the witnesses what the grand jury was all about. God knows, she might have told them the history of Grand Jury going back to Magna Carta. What happens is that each witness is asked approximately, "were you at a meeting in C.B. King's office last night". Unfortunately the answers were all an immediate denial or a "don't remember". Now the reason for that senseless perjury was that they were trying to protect the reputation of a white woman who would otherwise be considered a whore in consorting with black men. OMG people were so conditioned over the years.]
Monday Aug. 5
Early this morning we drove up to Americas for the trials of those arrested on July 19 and 20. Several of them sought to purchase a ticket of admission to the Martin Theatre, but refused to go around to the back door, historically the Negro entrance of the theater. The manager refused to sell them tickets and the kids were arrested for blocking the sidewalk (which meant in some cases the amount of sidewalk blocked when two people lined up one behind the other at the ticket window). As usual we elicited testimony that this line was blocking the sidewalk (a line of 2 people) but lines of whites which run around the block, aren't. The Chief also said that the arrests had no racial basis, but were simply for violations of City ordinances. The day wound up with 11 convictions for 11 defendants, all given the maximum 60 days or $106. There was also a girl convicted of disorderly conduct, a charge which generally carries a penalty of 7 days or $15 in Americus, but she was identified as being involved in the Movement here (she was wearing a SNCC pin when arrested) and therefore was given 30 days or $55. We have been getting them out on property appeal bonds when we file certiorari but the City is beginning to realize that the Movement is here to stay and has started causing trouble with the property bonds. John L. Barnum (Frank Holley's brother-in-law) had been going bond on everyone convicted. He and his family own a funeral home in Americus (the funeral business is one of the most lucrative of the Negro businesses and the owners relatively safe as they don't need to deal with whites) and he has property worth over $300,000. which everyone in Americus is well aware of, but now the City is demanding a financial statement. John L.'s involvement in the Movement is rather interesting. He was constantly getting into serious trouble with the police, generally for getting drunk and beating them up and buying his way out. He is very well liked by the white community (in the way that any rich Negro is well thought of). I am sure that most of the things that the average Southern Negro encounters never touched him, as money was never a problem, and when he had his own troubles he had only to write a check; so that this was his way of life. But Don Harris, the SNCC worker in Americus got though to him and now John L. is completely involved. All his "good connections" with the whites uptown, the Chief, etc. aren't worth a damn anymore, and they have been harassing the hell out of him. No one in town can understand what has happened to him; "he was always one of the finest niggers we had" I was told by a city official. The people (white) cannot understand what the Negro wants, what the Negro must have — that being a sense of dignity and achieving the status of human being. Also, I think that the Movement gives John L. a great outlet for his ego and a chance to show the white community "where it's at", both of which he needs, so the association is good for both parties. In the middle of the trials a Federal Marshall came in with a subpoena for people in the house where I had been invited. Albany has proved to be a very shocking experience for them, as no matter how much you read about this place, it is only after you are here and see what happens that it can really affect you.
We got a call from Fitzgerald, Ben Hill County, Ga, a little cracker town about 65 miles East of Albany. They had been having sit-in's at the library there about a week ago. The leader of the movement there is a girl named Mary Moss, a student at Florida A. & M. U. (pronounced Fay Em You) locally and everything revolved around her. To get her out of the way two white citizens took out peace bonds against her for a total of $150,000, an unheard of amount for what is similar to bail. What this means is that a person goes before any judge and states that he believes that his safety or that of his family, or his property is being threatened by the person named. They are then arrested, a hearing held, and if the Judge feels that this is true, can set a bond which lasts until the next term of Superior Ct (they only meet twice a year in the smaller counties) and if you can't meet bond you sit in jail until then. This is what they have been doing to Hosea Williams in Savanna. Anyhow, at the first hearing she asked to be represented by counsel, so the judge gave her 20 minutes to produce C.B. and then went on and heard the case and put her in jail pending the $150,000. bond. These peace bonds are hell, as you can get every white citizen in town swearing them out, and bond someone to death — a very effective tactic for getting at the Movement's leaders. I am surprised more places haven't hit on this yet. On Wednesday we wrote up motions for a new trial in Slater's case (where he is being sued by his former tenant). Of course the motion was summarily denied. Wed night I went out to Terrell for the mass meeting. Work is progressing on the burned out churches, but it goes very slowly. They are having trouble registering people as they have about rounded up everyone who has enough nerve, all the others tell you they remember what happened to Mr. Brazier (police beat him to death a couple of years ago). This was written up in Justice, a Civil Rights Commission publication). Also a lot of the people who do not live on the land and depend on "Mr. Charlie" to let them stay, work for a peanut oil company who fired a few workers who registered, so they refuse to go down; but a lot of local people have joined in the efforts to canvas for voters, so it might pick up. Getting people over the fear (which certainly has a valid basis) is the hardest part. Thursday we managed to get another piece of private practice done — drew up a warranty deed in a land transaction, also a will. This is the first outside work (other than civil rights) we have managed to get done in quite a while.
Thurs. night I drove up to Americus with Joni Rabinowitz, Eddie Brown, Emory Harris and Bobby Holloway for the mass meeting there (the three guys are all ex-gang members working with SNCC). I was amazed at the fantastic work Harris (Don Harris, no relation to Emory Harris) has done in Americus. The church was packed and everyone was ready to march. Don is from New York, a grad of Rutgers, been here for about a year, but I believe he only went up to Americus around March. He has gotten John L. into the Movement, and the local kids love him. After the meeting about 150 people walked up to the end of the Negro section, singing. John Perdew and Ralph Allen (both SNCC from Albany, and white) went up with the local people. This morning we heard that the cops, state troopers, and Sheriff pulled Don Harris from the crowd, beat him in the street and arrested him, also Perdew, Allen, and Sallie May Durham and have charged them with resisting arrest, attempting to incite insurrection, inciting to riot, and a few other choice charges. We heard that all of them were beaten badly in jail, but the worst was saved for Harris whom the cops despised.
Friday C.B. won a case: Lannie Mae Thrower (who was being held in jail as we didn't have bond money) had a commitment hearing on the charge of assault with intent to murder. We had dug up a 1904 case, State v Bray, which held that one who threw a rock at a train which narrowly missed hitting a passenger lacked the necessary intent for this charge, and the judge went along with this. Truly amazing, as the judge was Clayton Jones (Ralph McGill of the Atlanta Constitution wrote an editorial on him recently) who addressed the last KKK rally in town. Since she was put on probation for the City charge she is out of jail now, and can go back to her two children.
Also today the incitements came down from Macon. Bonds totaled over $200,000 on the 9 people: Joni Rabinowitz, Goldie Jackson, Rev Wells, Slater, Tom Chatmon, Hobbie Thomas, Luther Woodall, Dr Anderson, and Robert "New York" Colbert. Goldie and Slater, as well as Dr. Anderson the former President who no longer lives in town are the leadership of the Albany Movement. The last three were charged under the injuring a juror statute and everyone else with perjury. This is about the worst thing 1 have ever seen here as here the Fed Govt seems to be doing the dirty work for the power structure. We ran around all afternoon trying to convince the more affluent members of the Negro community to sign property bonds, which was like pulling teeth. The Clerk of the U.S. District Court is sheriff Campbell's son (the sheriff who clubbed C.B. last year for having the "audacity" to sit on the other side of the Bar where the white lawyers were sitting) so this made the job extra hard. Finally Frank Holley, who really had been virtually uninvolved in Movement activity (other than letting me stay at his house) came through beautifully. He personally signed 2 of the bonds and talked another guy into signing three, so we have everyone out on bond. It would seem that the Fed Govt, in this particular instance, has shown the resources at its command — its ability to send approx. 75 FBI into Albany to "beat the bushes" for witnesses; its readiness to issue subpoenas for over 60 witnesses to come to Macon for the hearing, a distance of over 100 miles for most, but in some cases from as far away as NY and Michigan; its very thorough preparation for the hearing which lasted over a week; the fact that obviously this was arranged and coordinated in Washington, and was not the work of some local hot-shot prosecuting attorney who has aspirations to be governor someday. One would wonder why the Fed Govt cannot begin to approach this display of efficiency and attention when Negroes are shot, beaten, and brutalized at the hands of the local police. As an elderly Negro resident of Albany stated: "Even the Federal Government is a white man". The purpose of the hearing was not disclosed in the subpoenas, and one witness who inquired into the nature of the hearings was told to just answer the questions. The lengthy hearings seemed to be directed towards establishing that a local boycott of a white grocery store owner because of his hiring policies and general mistreatment of Negro customers was really instituted because of his verdict in Charlie Ware's federal suit against the Sheriff (after being shot 3 times by him). Other white store owners with similar policies were also boycotted and even today a selective buying policy is in force. Now, for the first time, and long overdue, the Federal Government shows involvement in Albany — but it is on the wrong side of the table.
[The perjury indictments were for the people Liz was preparing who denied, or didn't remember that they were in a room with a single white girl — again done to protect her reputation. Joni's "perjury" was because she denied being the "white girl" at the picketing but wouldn't tell them who she was mistaken for. Joni is the daughter of Victor Rabinowitz, Leonard Boudin's parter. They are both believed to be Communists. This is a very important fact because the trial did not take place that summer. C.B. was paid (not very much) by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. who paid him for his civil rights cases. Jack Greenberg, head of what was referred to as the Inc. Fund, to distinguish it from the regular NAACP, was a red baiter like a lot of "liberals" of that era. He told C.B. he would pay for the representation of all the other defendants but only if C.B. didn't represent Joni "because her father is a communist". Now C.B., whose virtual entire income came from the Inc. Fund, would not put up with that shit. Joni was then represented by her dad, Victor, but C.B. also worked with the defense. Greenberg was furious but he couldn't punish C.B. by dropping him from their list of lawyers (as he had threatened) because C.B. was the only Movement from here to Atlanta and to Savannah on the ocean. The convictions were later reversed by the Fifth Circuit which had an outstanding bench. United States v. Jackson, et al (Goldie) and United States v. Rabinowith. Then the government split the 5th into two circuits bestowing the revered title of Fifth Circuit on the Texas, Louisiana area.]
Early Saturday we drove to Fitzgerald, Ga, about 65 miles to the East. This is tobacco and peanut country; the highway has many stands which sell boiled peanuts (weird tasting, boiled in salt water but considered a delicacy here). We went down for the hearings on peace bonds for Mary Moss . She already had one hearing, when she had been given 20 minutes to produce counsel. Amazing things happened in Fitzgerald. The guy who swore out the peace bond was illiterate, and his testimony seemed to show that he signed it without having it read to him. He also signed a pauper affidavit but testified that he owned a car worth about $700, was paying off his house and was employed. His testimony was fantastic. At one point C.B. asked him about the conversation he was having with relatives in his house when allegedly 30 Negroes including Miss Moss were talking in front of his house at 10 p.m. He was in fear of imminent harm to himself and family, also violent injury to property, the statutory prima facie case. The witness said "I object, don't have to tell you what I do in my house". The judge then said, "the court objects, his house is his castle". Then the court sustained its own objection. Finally the City attorney made an objection and told the judge to sustain it, and not the court's objection. This characterizes the whole tone of the trial. Actually Mary Moss wasn't even there that night, and could prove it with police as witnesses who knew that she was at a mass meeting blocks away. But we didn't have to offer any evidence as the judge granted our motion to dismiss at the end of the State's case. Today I saw C.B. at his absolute finest. He had a sixth sense that the old cracker who signed the bond was illiterate so he said to him, "would you elucidate the penultimate paragraph on said peace bond." No answer. So he stepped back into the aisle about the middle of the audience and asked the same question. Again, no answer. Then C.B stepped to the very rear of the courtroom and again said, "Sir, I have asked you to inform those assembled here what language is contained in the penultimate paragraph of the bond you allegedly read before signing." The old man finally whispered "cain't read". Oh C.B. was in heaven. So he boomed out (he has an incredible voice, like one of the preachers) "I'm sorry sir but my hearing doesn't permit understanding unless you would be so kind as to speak up." Now the old cracker said, loud enough to be heard at the furthest place in the court audience, "Cain't read god damn it", stood up and walked out.
The other peace bond was signed by a "white lady" and the Judge called her name, waited 10 seconds, and then dismissed as she wasn't there — it would seem that he wasn't about to let "that Nigra lawyer" rake her over the coals as the last person was. At the end of the first peace bond hearing for the "victim" who feared for his life, that of his family and most important, his livestock" I saw an old white lady get up and move rapidly out of the court. The local Negroes who were in the audience just loved it.
[The peace bonds were dismissed and Mary Moss continued organizing in her home town. Years later she was elected to the City Counsel and then as Mayor of Albany.]
So we left Fitzgerald around noon, drove back to the office, then right up to Americus. C.B. was tired as he woke up at 4 A.M. because of a crank call threatening his life. We went to county jail to see Perdew, Allen, and Harris., but were told the sheriff (Sheriff Fred Chappell) wasn't in so we couldn't enter the jail to see our clients but they finally relented. I walked inside and saw Sallie Mae Durham in the first cell. I couldn't get to any others but could yell through her cell and Don Harris could hear me thru the vent pipe. He said he had been pretty badly beaten but was all right now. Sallie had been punched in the face by the troopers, Ralph had some stitches over his eye, and Perdew had been seriously injured.
Friday August l6:
On Wednesday Aug 14, the Albany Herald carried a headline reading: "FBI Agent Denies Albany Cop Brutality" and the rest of the story concerned statements made by an FBI agent from Atlanta speaking to the Albany Lions Club, including this quote: "Vocal pressure groups, said McMahon [FBI agent], set up a hue and cry for the FBI to intervene in the 'breakdown' of local law enforcement, but the special agent went on to record flatly that "no such case has occurred in Georgia". The Editor, James Gray, stated the article and headline had first been read by Special Agent McMahon and approved in its entirety. McMahon first denied reading the article but then admitted it after being told of Gray's statement. When asked specifically and directly whether he denies the existence of police brutality in Albany he evaded the question and stated that he had no comment to make. This is the "impartiality and good faith" of the FBI in the area. The same issue of the Herald carried an AP story which began: "The Justice Department says it has found nothing to substantiate Negro charges of police brutality during anti-segregation demonstrations in this South Georgia city [Americus]" The local FBI agent, Hilyard, advised us that investigations were still under way and that such a statement was "premature". I saw the bloodstained shirts of these teenagers; I saw Milton Wilkerson with a blood soaked bandage around his head and he had over 20 stitches; I saw the burns on the arms and shoulders of Thomas Douglass; and I saw the club marks and burns on the bodies of many other young men and women. Statements like the above by the Justice Department and FBI convince the Negro that there is absolutely no where to turn in the struggle — that the Government itself is unconcerned and worse.
I phoned the local FBI two days ago to advise them that I would be glad to give them a complete statement as to the nature of the wounds that I saw; they promised to come up and get this, but still haven't shown. Where does the Negro turn when the Federal Government shows itself to be completely disinterested in the deprivations of his constitutional rights, unconcerned when he is beaten, burned, and murdered, often by local law enforcement officers. Talk about patience, talk about making gradual progress in the civil rights area, BULLSHlT! And now, the latest and most blatant example of Federal "concern", the indictments in Macon. When the Federal Government does decide to involve itself in the travail in Albany it signs itself on the side of the bigot, the Klan, and the arch- segregationists. We as American citizens have a lot to be proud of. Taking its cue from the Federal Government, the local police have again begun their harassment of SNCC workers. James Daniels was also picked up and held a few hours for "investigation". Joni Rabinowitz who was giving out voter registration material, ran up into the office, saying the cops were after her in Harlem. Pete deLissovoy was picked up in Box Bottom and taken down for questioning.
I find myself so depressed lately, it is unbearable. I really can't face the prospect of leaving Albany, yet I want desperately to escape the reality of all of this. I feel as if I were deserting, no matter how much I try to rationalize it. After the trials (hearings) on Harris, et al — they stopped before they got to Zev Aloeny (CORE) — but I guess it doesn't matter much, he won't have his hearing until Sept 3 but they will bind him over without bond until then also, so what does it matter if they go through the formality of a hearing — just lock everyone up, screw them, no one really cares anyhow. I keep reflecting on this and it bothers me. I think about reading about 5 people getting killed in a car accident. It doesn't faze me, it's just more words in the paper, what the hell do I care, I didn't know them, they weren't friends of mine, I don't know what they thought about or who they were sleeping with or anything else and I know that this is what happens when people read that James Brown was shot to death in Americus — who the hell was he, some poor Negro, so what. So what if Milton Wilkerson gets his head split open, or if Rosie Rushin has burns from the cattle prodders or if Harris and Sallie and the others stay in jail until November, then are bound over for trial by the grand jury and convicted and sit around in prison for maybe a couple of years while the appeals drag on. So what, you don't know them, they are just names. Does anything make sense anymore? Do you understand what is happening here, here in America? Understand that these are people I know, that I love, that I care about very much and their personal well being is as important as mine, and they sit in jail while their stitches heal and my head hurts with theirs, but to everyone else they are just names so it just doesn't matter, they are just 5 more people whose lives were snuffed out in a car accident.
Perhaps 1 can get out of this bag by telling you how much fun I had today in the sheriff's office after the hearing. I sat there waiting for C.B. — the sheriff in Americus doesn't let me in his stinking jail. So while I sat there reading Justice (sometimes 1 do very ludicrous things) some white imbecile comes over and has a whole lot of questions about where I come from, etc. and then gets into this whole hate things, calls me every obscenity imaginable, tells me he wants to beat me to death, to go outside with him — but I am just numb to stuff like this now, so I sit there and listen and smile — I really can't react, I can't get mad or sad or pity him or anything else, I am just like a mushroom lately. But the Judge is standing there and hears all this, and doesn't say anything and a deputy comes out and puts him hand on his pistol and looks at me with all the hate in the world in his eyes and I know he wants to shoot me, because I challenge the myth — the totality of blackness and whiteness, everything he has every believed and known; I know this and it doesn't affect me. I just sit there, then they go into the other room and no doubt discuss what they will do to me, "go out there and kill the dirty nigger lovin' son of a bitch" but nothing happens and C.B. comes out and we drive back to Albany. I wish I could feel some reaction but nothing happens. I don't pity him, am not really afraid because I am so numb, I guess the only thing I feel is a kind of cool hatred (this isn't the word — the kind of thing you feel when you see a caged lizard. You kind of despise it but not really as it isn't worth feeling anything toward.
This will be my last letter from Southwest Georgia, as it is now Sunday, August 25. I will be leaving here early Tuesday morning on the train to join the March on Washington. Thinking of leaving Albany is impossible, and the full awareness of this hasn't really set in. To go back to Berkeley and school means to leave some of the finest people I have ever known, to be out of touch with everything. John, Ralph, Zev and Don stay in jail in Americus facing a death penalty for insurrection, for god only knows how long, while I will sit in a classroom and read meaningless cases. I leave people here to be beaten and shot by police, to be frustrated at every turn in this struggle, to wait for a Messiah in the form of the federal government, a savior who will never come, and I go back to smug inbred Berkeley. Resolving this was not easy and I find that it is only the fact that I have one year left before I can function more effectively down here as a lawyer, that I will go back at this point. I can only leave Albany knowing that I will come back, and do more when I return. It is strange to see how this affected so many people who came here from the North. Some were never really part of what was happening, never really understood, and they have long since left for Atlanta or their campus, but those who came and were moved, they will stay on, though this is a great personal sacrifice for many of them. One of the SNCC kids has turned down a full fellowship to study in Asia to stay and do voter registration work. Others stay with the knowledge of complete alienation from their families (and this is not restricted to the whites, many of the Negro SNCC kids have parents who have absolutely no sense of what is being done here). One guy just came down from Atlanta, he won't be going back to school in- the fall, but will be out in the field. We sat around and talked about non- violence, about the Muslims, about freedom. When are people going to understand that non-violence has been pushed to the brink, that the police continue to arrest and beat its advocates, those who are most influential in keeping demonstrations peaceful. When will people realize that the Negro is now awake, he will no longer be kept "in his place", but will take what is rightfully his, and if this can't be done painlessly, than it will be done violently, but it will be done. Some of the finest minds have battled over this; have reacted in various ways to the frustrations. There are SNCC workers who have spent months in jail, have been beaten over and over by the police, and who could not endure anymore. They are now Muslims. A frightening thought for the white community, no? Shouldn't the Negro love us after all we have done for him? We have given him scraps from our table, gave him cast off clothing for years, and now he does us this way. There are others who left movement activities entirely and now wander around Harlem in a narcotic trance. This is America's responsibility, that some of the most brilliant Negro college graduates, when faced with the prospect of teaching other Negroes to become teachers to teach still more Negroes, have decided to just get coked up and forget it. But those are the people who have left. You still have Charles Sherrod, who has gone through two years in southwest Georgia, and will keep on going.
[Sherrod is still there, running a cooperative farm with local blacks who now are not dependent on the white farm owner.]
I don't know how he can function, and at times he only functions at a bare minimum but somehow he comes through. The other day he appeared with another bus, the old one they had finally died. He sits up all night trying to figure out how to get 150 people to Washington on $500. but he comes up with the extra money. He was trained as a minister and at times his moral program gets oppressive but what he is doing is beautiful so you can ignore it. Sherrod is only one of the many who have been here for so long, and who will stay on — Joyce Barrett, Prathia Hall, Ralph and the others, they will stay on here, but how much longer can they counsel non-violence in the face of this oppression. How can they tell people that they can go out and register to vote, that the Fed Govt will guarantee their rights, when the Federal Government is out indicting the leadership of the Movement.
[Later in time C.B. and Don Hollowell tried the Americus Insurrection trial. The whole thing is a sick joke as the statute was declared unconstitutional by the UCCS but this does not seem to be an impediment to conviction. I believe C.B. and Hollowell filed an injunctive action in federal court and won. Hard not to with a Supreme Court decision holding this statute unconstitutional about 25 years ago, enough time for that word to reach Americus.]
We sat up all last night getting the people ready who were going up to Washington early to picket the Justice Dept., they left about 5 A.M., some thirty people ranging from 11 to 80 years old. Maybe Burke Marshall will trip over some of them on his way into the office and realize that there is an Albany, Georgia, and that it is a terrible place. Maybe he will see Mrs. Christian and some of her many daughters, little girls who have been beaten by the police,-who were molested by jailers and had police dogs put in their cells with them — maybe he will see them when he gets out of his air conditioned car but I doubt it. I am enclosing with this two pages of facts on police brutality in the area, which the pickets will have, and also a brief statement on the Macon indictments of the Albany Movement leadership. Maybe the Justice Department officials will read the fact sheet and explain how "an official spokesmen" could state, in an AP dispatch, that "there is no evidence of police brutality in Americus". Maybe J. Edgar Hoover will get one and wonder how McMahon, of the Atlanta FBI could tell a white group in Albany that there is no police brutality in Albany. When the local cops lie you expect it, but when the government lies, there is no hope. What do you tell Mrs. Christian who has seen the lumps on her daughters' heads, who has been beaten herself by the police, when the government tells her there is no police brutality?
I don't remember how far my last letter ran, but I will end this by giving you a rundown of what happened this week. On Tuesday Mrs. Motley and Norman Amaker of the NAACP Legal Defense, Inc. came to Albany to argue against the Dougherty Co Board of Education plan (nothing this year, 1st grade in f64) in Gaines v. Dougherty Co. Bd of Ed, et al. It is a beautiful thing to see Mrs. Motley in action, and everyone in town who can get into the Federal courthouse comes to see her work. She is a large, powerful woman, who stands up, folds her arms over her ample bosom, and starts laying out the law. She never stops and never pauses to look at notes, she must have every Supreme Court decision memorized. She cut Cordelle (Supt. of Schools) into pieces, and finally Judge Elliot started asking the questions to help the Board out.
[An aside about the honorable Constance Baker Motley whose reputation in a civil rights type case was great but she was terrible to most criminal defendants. We knew each other slightly but she knew I worked with C.B. who she liked and respected. Lyndon Johnson later appointed her to the bench of the United States District Court, I believe the first black woman to have this honor. So here I am in 1980-81 representing one of a group of 10 Croatians now living in the United States and fighting for the independence of Jugoslavia. They are each charged in two RICO counts (a statute designed to fight the Mafia) and those convicted got 40 years. The only ones freed, besides my client, were a guy who was directly and only connected to my client, and a guy from Westchester County, N.Y. who had nothing to do with anything but they needed to indict a New Yorker to lay venue in New York where an AUSA had some experience trying Croatian "terrorist" (though I don't think they used that word then) so they wanted him to try it. We did not get along very well, but it was Her Honor that posed the greatest problems for me. When I heard she was the Judge I told my client living in California that this augured well for us as she knew me and liked me but especially liked my boss. What a fool I am. She hated all the defense lawyers but hated me with a special venom. A friend later told me the reason was she saw me as a Movement lawyer and here I was representing dangerous criminals, a terrorist gang. The stories of our interaction are too long and varied for inclusion here but once it became clear that I was not scoring points because of my connection (I even had him come up one day and sit with me "sending a message to Connie" of his approval of me through his presence.) I must have been dreaming.
This was a 3 = month trial where most of the lawyers charged their fees based on their assumption that they could cut a deal and get their $10,000.00 for a few hours work, but it was not to be. The defendants told all the deal makers to forget about it and try the case. Now a couple of them were pretty good but the rest were hacks. There is something called "an MCC lawyer". Federal defendants awaiting trial are locked up in the Metropolitan Corrections Center and unknowing and unsophisticated are pressured to hire someone on the guards' list (no doubt involving a kickback but maybe that is unfair, I don't know). So the MCC defense lawyers are furious, dragooned into what becomes a 3 = month trial. They had many ways of showing their displeasure like not reading the discovery not even a two page 302 (FBI report form) dealing with the witness they would face the next day. As a result they asked some pretty insane questions which were devastating to our case. We also had simultaneous translation from Croatian to English from time to time. One day I walked past one of the valiant defenders and a rock and roll song was coming out of his earphone. So she and I hated each other and I did everything I could to disrespect her and show her pettiness to the jury. One day I sidled up to the bench and said "You probably don't remember me but we spent the night together in Montgomery". She ran into chambers. But it was true. When C.B. and I went to Montgomery we were put up in the large home of a wealthy black man. He also put up the black lawyers from the Inc. Fund to argue other cases. One of them was Connie Motley so what I said was literally true. It was also one of 27 contempt "advisements", "we will deal with this at the conclusion of the trial" code for your ass is mine and you are going to be jailed. That was but one of many actions which she found insulting and rude as they were intended to be because you could see an annoyance building in the jury day by day. My "comrades" respected me, "the California Hippie" as I was affectionately (as I sought to see it) known because I knew the entire case including what was happening with their clients (facts they never bothered learning). They would listen to me about some issues, mostly they didn't bother because they didn't care. During jury selection there were three young men, black me. Oh they couldn't wait to throw them off. I argued with them explaining that they probably wouldn't like this big aggressive woman who would treat them as children and they relented and I had my three young black men.
My theory is in your usual few day trial the jury identifies with the judge but in a very long trial you can show the bias and irrational behavior to the jury and now the judge is not the most popular person in the court room. This theory proved accurate. She was overbearing and treated all the lawyers like little children. As we are doing closing arguments — we were told to take as much time as we want. Two lawyers argue. Then it is my turn. Court was always dark on Fridays so she could attend to other business. She is holding the jury very late for these arguments and they are already fidgety. Now she announces, come to court tomorrow (Friday) and bring your toothbrush as you will be locked in a hotel until you reach a verdict. A very good judicial way of pushing the jury into a quick guilty vote so they can go home. One juror begins to cry. She has a tiny baby at home and she can always nurse the baby on Friday through the weekend. Someone yells out that "this weekend is Mothers Day". Insanely she says, "I know, I'm a mother too." At which Michael Monico from Detroit who was an excellent lawyer and got his guy acquitted, either totally or at least on one of the counts yells out "Yes. You are a mother, your honor [laughter from the jury box]. So she makes me get up, it's very late, maybe 7:00 p.m., maybe later. She has just finished freaking them out and as I go to the podium says "Two hours Mr. Roberts". I said "But your honor, we could argue as long as we wanted and I have prepared probably three pages of argument". She responded, "Mr. Roberts, I said 2 hours and I will be watching the clock." So I stood there at the podium rummaging through my notes, pulling out sheets of paper and throwing them to the floor (now it is hard to sum up in a 3.5 month trial in 2 hours but so be it). First day the jury was in the hotel they came back with a note: "The game room is only open one hour each night. Could you arrange for it to be open for two hours". Well, she almost lost it yelling "Game room? Game room? Mr. Marshal you lock that game room down tight. This is not a time for games. That's when I knew my theory might prove correct. I forget how many days the jury was out. Usually in a multi-defendant trial they announce the verdicts in the order of the people in the indictment but here they called Mile Boban first. "Not guilty count 1; not guilty count 2". The look on her face was priceless and realizing I was only hours away from jailing because of the 27 "advisements" of contempt I leaned over to my client who was sitting behind me and if I correctly remember the exact words I said " Run Mother Fucker" and we were out the door, into a cab and to JFK. We caught an almost immediate flight back to S.F. and I told Mile, we will be home before they finish reading the verdicts.
Back to the courtroom of J. Robert Elliot, the My Lai Judge. We were hoping that he would decide at the end of the hearing, so we could on to the Fifth Circuit, but our hope was to no avail,]
Unfortunately he said he wouldn't decide immediately, but we would hear early this week — too late to do anything about the 1963 school year anyhow. We took them out to the airport and ran into Heilbrun, the Justice Dept representative from Atlanta who had just gotten back from Americus where he noted great concern about two things — the amount of false reports, and "the kids up there are crazy, someone will get hurt". The accurate reports didn't seem to trouble him, or did the cause for "the kids going crazy" (after having been hosed, clubbed and burned by the police). He told us that he was perfectly satisfied that there was no Federal involvement in the shooting of James Brown, the Negro who the Americus police shot to death the other day. Perhaps there might be a negligence action, but certainly not Federal intervention. On Wednesday 17 more were arrested in Americus, I think they were on their way to try to buy tickets to the movie; just lock everyone up, that's the perfect solution to a demand for constitutionally guaranteed rights. The rest of the week has been somewhat of a nightmare. Leaving is very painful and I keep seeing people who I know I won't see again for quite a while. We have been preparing certiorari petitions and compiling the record for the Albany disorderly conduct case (Daniels, deLissovoy, et al) and also all the loitering cases in Americus, all of which are deadlined for Monday. Monday will be frantic because we have to file in Americus and then get out to Fitzgerald for a juvenile hearing and then back to Albany to finish up more petitions.
[If you look at a map of Georgia you will see the incredible distances between Albany, Americus, Fitzgerald, Newton, Thomasville, etc.]
Victor Rabinowitz (Joni's dad and a famous lawyer in New York) got to town Saturday and we discussed the Macon case. This took most of the afternoon. Saturday night we had a meeting with the pickets going to Washington (we meaning Liz and I, not C.B. as he doesn't get into this stuff for very obvious reasons). Sherrod also informed us of the arrangements for Washington which promises to be the most confused thing ever. Arrangements are non-existent. When asked where we will meet the response is "out at the south side of the Monument" (with about 100,000 other people). But I guess somehow all this will work out; right now the big problem is finding cars to drive us to Thomasville, about 65 miles, where we get the train to Washington. Sherrod is 'thinking" about this (when Sherrod "thinks" it seems like he is sleeping) but somehow he comes up with answers so I can't criticize it. I guess that's it for now. I will see most of you within the next two weeks. dennis
Copyright © Dennis Roberts
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