An Experience with Violence in Lowndes County, Alabama
Jimmy Rogers

Raw video version

[As told to the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the student-led sit-ins of 1960, the rise of youth-led activism, and the founding of SNCC. Main library, San Francisco, March 27, 2010.]

Good evening. My name is Jimmy Rogers, and I worked for SNCC in 1965 in Lowndes County, Alabama. Lowndes County is located between Selma and Montgomery. It's right on the path of U.S. Highway 80 from Selma to Montgomery.

I was involved in a killing in Lowndes County — of which there were many — at least five or six within a one-year period. The first one was Jimmy Lee Jackson who got killed [in nearby Perry County]. Jimmy Lee Jackson was killed because he tried to protect his mother and his grandfather from some highway patrolmen who were assaulting them. Martin Luther King invited a lot of ministers to Alabama to protest his killing and after Martin Luther King called ministers to Selma, Reverend Reeb answered the call, and he went down to Selma to participate. He was walking through town in Selma when he was attacked and killed.

I don't know whether you are familiar with the Viola Liuzzo killing. Viola Liuzzo was a woman from Detroit who went to Selma, Alabama to participate in the Selma to Montgomery March. After the march was over, she was riding back from Montgomery to Selma with a Black man in the car. There were some Ku Klux Klansmen out that night, and they shot in the car and killed Mrs. Liuzzo.

But the one that I would like to talk about, which I was involved in, was where an Episcopal seminarian by the name of Jonathan Daniels was killed. Jonathan Daniels came to Alabama to participate in the Selma to Montgomery March. After the march he participated with us in a demonstration in a town called Fort Deposit, Alabama which is where most of the white people in Lowndes County live. It was a pretty rough area because a lot of those people who lived in the area were card-carrying Klansmen.

This was a Saturday, and we were assembling, and the FBI came up, and they said to me: "Look, we would advise you not to go down to the store." This was a store that we were going to picket because the kids felt — rightfully felt — that they were insulted by having to go to the back window in order to buy something and couldn't go into the store. And what they would have to do is order through the back window and pay with their money through the back window, but they weren't allowed to go into the store. So they wanted to protest. So we protested and got arrested.

We went to jail for a whole week in Haneyville, the county seat. The following Saturday, we were released from jail. I asked them, "Why are you releasing us?" They said: Never mind that. Just leave. So I told people, "Well, I don't think we should go any further than the front door," [of the jail].

So we went outside the front door. The cops told us: "No, you can't stay here." So we walked across the street, and four people decided that they were going to go to this little store that we went to when we were in Haneyville. When they walked up to the store, Jonathan Daniels, the Episcopal seminarian, was in the front. There was a man inside the store who had a shotgun, when Jonathan walked up these little steps — they had two or three steps outside the store — a man came out, and I saw him with a shotgun. He stuck it in Jonathan's stomach and pulled the trigger, and it killed him instantly.

Along with Jonathan Daniels was a Catholic priest by the name of Father Morrisroe. He turned to run, and was shot in the back. After the killer shot them, he pointed the shotgun at us. We were about a third of a block away from where it happened. We could see the whole thing. He pointed the gun at us, but he didn't shoot. He ran to his car. I walked up. There were a bunch of other people around. I didn't see them around where the incident happened because they were hidden. When I got up there, they said: "If you don't get out of here, you're going to be laying down beside them." So there was nothing I could do. I left.

A couple of months later, they had a trial. They said that Jonathan had a knife, and he attacked them with a knife, so the killer shot him with the shotgun. The jury found that it was a justifiable homicide. They said that the murderer wasn't guilty because it was in self defense, and nothing could have been further from the truth. That's all I have to say.


Copyright © Jimmy Rogers, 2010

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