Reflections: Arrest & Return to Work Camden, AL June 30, 1965

This is one of a series of letters I wrote to friends, family and supporters while doing field work for Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Wilcox County Alabama as a college student volunteer. How have things changed? How have they stayed the same?

June 30, 1965                                                                                      Camden, Alabama

Dear Family and Friends,

On Monday, June 28,1965 at 11:00 a.m., I was at the residence of Charles Nettles. I looked out the window and saw a Lane Butane truck [KKK] parked by Antioch Baptist Church. There was a white man by the truck holding a large stick in his hand. There were a large number of Negro* children in front of the church, so I ran across the road to see what was happening. Some of the little girls threw their arms around me and I hugged them and told them to go on home.

Then I went on into the church. Most of the SCOPE staff was sitting in the font pews. Mayor Albritton was there with several policemen and posse men with guns. I sat down with the others and they asked me my name, age and whether or not I was a paid staff member. I replied no to the last question.

Antioch Baptist Church where we were arrested

Antioch Baptist Church, Camden AL June 1965
Photo by John Worcester

Then they asked us to get in the police cars. Eighteen arrests were made at this time. When we arrived [at the jail] they asked us to line up. The boys were asked, one by one, to put their hands against the wall while a policeman frisked them for concealed weapons. One Negro boy [Don Green, SCOPE worker], who was standing right in front of me, had a small pocket knife in his stocking. The policeman jerked it out, handed it to another man and pushed the boy into the hallway so forcefully that he hit the wall. Then policemen said to book him on a concealed weapons charge. When it came time for the girls to be frisked the policeman took great delight in running his hands up and down as he told us we had nothing to fear. One by one they checked our names off and sent us upstairs to a small cell.

For a short time we all stayed in one cell. There were five white girls [me, Connie Turner and Ann Nesbitt of SCOPE, Judy and Sheri of SNCC], one white man and fourteen Negro men. I had to go to the bathroom so they turned their heads, but it was embarrassing for all of us.

After a while they asked all the ‘colored’ men to step out. They put them in a large cell across the hall from us. Then they took Mike Farley, the one white man, into a cell one away from us girls, on the same side.

We sat on the two bunks and talked. A little before 1:30 we heard some commotion in Mike’s cell. I heard loud noises like someone was being punched and falling against the cell wall. Mike was yelling. This continued for a short time – maybe 3 or 4 minutes. I was sick with fear and revulsion at what I could imagine happened to him. We joined hands and I prayed very hard.

After a long time Mike yelled down to us. He said that the guard had made Crow, his white southern cell mate, beat him. He said he felt like his head was broken and that he needed a doctor badly. We tried to offer encouragements but there wasn’t much we could say.

Mike Farley age 17 after being beaten in face and on head in Camden Jail

A few minutes after the beating the jailer came and took Connie Turner out. Shortly after [without returning her] he came and got me. He said “I wish I wasn’t taking you to the firehouse” He followed me down the stairs [with a gun in my back]. and I didn’t say anything more to him. I went into the firehouse and sat down next to Connie. There were several posse men and policemen standing around. John Worcester [one of the white seminarians]and we discussed possibilities of bail. There weren’t any funds for our county at that time. One of the posse men had a jar with some clear liquid in it [Wilcox was a dry county]. He asked both Connie and I to smell it. It was sweet and alcoholic. We said we hadn’t smelled anything like that before and they all laughed. Connie and I returned to our cell together under the supervision of the policemen.

Around 4:30 they [black inmate trustees] brought us five plates of beans and cornbread. We ate some of it then most of us passed the remainder of our food to O.T , a psychotic man in the cell next to us. I couldn’t eat anything.

We tried to lie on the bunks with two on one and three on the other but it was hot and sticky. The toilet didn’t work and urine overflowed onto the floor. The cell was filthy dirty. The water in the sink didn’t work so our only access to water was the hot shower. When we finally decided to try to sleep we dragged one mattress onto the floor. Two of us lay on the floor, one on the top bunk, and two on the bottom. They didn’t turn out the lights so we had to unscrew the light bulb.

Around 11 o’clock Mike yelled to us that he thought Crow was going to beat him again. He asked us to arouse the guard. We thought perhaps there was some way to talk Crow out of it so we hesitated. But as Mike’s voice grew more urgent and we heard a few sound slaps, we began pounding on the cell wall with our fists and shoes. Mike yelled, “Guard, guard.” It took several minutes before the jailer arrived. We couldn’t hear what happened after that – we could only hear loud voices.

I was numb with anxiety and pain from an old back injury. My main concern was for Mike and the people on the outside…who could know what kind of harassment the local folk were getting, with all their leaders in jail? I finally fell asleep from exhaustion around 3 a.m. At 5 a.m I awoke to find a black hand stroking my hair and my face. It was O.T. in the cell next door. I tried to move my head further away from the bars but there wasn’t room enough so I got up again and paced the floor.

At 5:30 a.m. they brought us breakfast. It consisted of 3 biscuits, a strip of bologna, and some imitation syrup. None of us had much stomach for it. The trustees kept coming round behind our cell and looking through the bars and reaching their hands in. It made it rather difficult to go to the bathroom or take a shower. I was so revolted that I couldn’t even speak to them.

By 11:30 they took Connie, Anne and myself out of our cell. We were then driven by Officer Sanders over to Mayor Albritten’s gas station. We three girls went in and talked with the Mayor.  He then asked us our names and ages and where we went to school. Then he gave us a fatherly lecture on how we shouldn’t hand out boycott handbills [because it is a felony in Alabama and will ruin your chances to go back to school]. We, in fact, had not been handing out anything at all [although a boycott was in progress]. We were released. Anne returned to the church immediately [to begin typing up affidavits for the FBI and incident reports for SCLC]. Connie and I first took showers at the Academy and then returned to the Church. I immediately went down to the Wilsons Quarter when I am in charge of the voter registration program. I went from house to house telling people of my experience [and urging them to register to vote].

….more soon

*Negro was the preferred term of respect by African Americans at that time.

For more about my experience and that of my coworkers read: “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight.”  www.thisbrightlightofours.com

Alabama Book Launch & Selma Jubilee

All Wilcox County Freedom Fighters, friends and family are welcome to attend the March 6th celebration in Camden and to march with us under the Wilcox County Freedom Fighter banner Sunday March 9th in Selma. I will also be with University of Alabama Press for “Meet the Author Book Signing” at the St. James Hotel Saturday March 8th 5-7 PM. See my book website: www.thisbrightlightofours.com for more details. We hope to see you there!Camden Book Celebration

Rev Dr. Lewis V Baldwin, Camden Hometown hero Feted at Vanderbilt Retirement Event

Lewis V Baldwin with lifetime friend & colleague Walter J Fluker

Lewis V Baldwin with lifetime friend & colleague Walter J Fluker

Civil Rights Conference participants singing

Civil Rights Conference participants singing

Thank you all! I am filled with gratitude for the many blessings of new and renewed friendship brought about by this book project. One of the most exciting was this: November 7-9th Vanderbilt Divinity School and African American & Diaspora Studies celebrated and honored the man still recalled as “LV” Baldwin, now author of numerous acclaimed books. [search Amazon “Lewis Baldwin in Books.]  Baldwin was honored for 30 years of teaching, research, and scholarship devoted to American Religious History and the U.S. Civil Rights Movement by brilliant and well-known former students and colleagues from around the country, as well as family and friends. For a list of speakers and presenters, visit  http://www.vanderbilt.edu/aframst/Event%20News

It was a tremendous honor and privilege to be invited to speak about Lewis’s childhood community, Camden, Alabama,Wilcox County and about the long and successful Freedom Fight. Among others, I read stories shared with me by Lewis’s friends Robert Powell, Betty Anderson and Gloria Jean McDole.

Lewis Baldwin & Maria Gitin, Vanderbilt University

Lewis Baldwin & Maria Gitin, Vanderbilt University

Please vist our new website and learn more about the forthcoming book

This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight: www.thisbrightlightofours.com  and to learn about classroom and discounted advance orders, available now.

First Return to Camden 2008

Dan Harrell photo ©Bob Fitch  http://www.BobFitchPhoto.com

Dan Harrell photo ©Bob Fitch http://www.BobFitchPhoto.com

My old boyfriend Luke (Bob) Block and I returned to Camden, Alabama 43 years after my summer/his six months there as civil rights workers. Although we are both happily married to others, this first return visit could only be ours, two veterans returning to the battlefield. Walking down the overcast quiet streets, we exclaimed how great it was to feel safe, to not have to look over our shoulders, tense at the sight of a pick-up truck with a gun rack in the mirror, and not to expect to be run off the road. Coupled with deep personal relief, it felt great to see the people we had once considered “our people” living with greater ease.  These folks who let us share in their struggle had gained political power, some peace, and for some, even a bit of prosperity. It was evident that there was a long way to go for most people to enjoy real economic security, but they didn’t have to wonder every night if the Klan or Sheriff was coming for them.

One evening, we lingered over sodas and fried catfish at Miz Kitty’s Café, we tried to eavesdrop on a group of police and sheriff’s deputies gathered at another table. As they got up to leave, Luke walked over to ask about the sheriff, Prince Arnold, the first and current African American sheriff in the county. They said, “You just missed him.” Trying to track down Sheriff Prince Arnold became our private joke. Every time we asked, “Do you know where we could find Sheriff Arnold this morning?” we got the same response: “You just missed him.” Both of us were curious to meet the county’s first Black sheriff and to ask him about our old jail records and Dan Harrell’s murder, but I didn’t catch up with him until I returned with my husband, in 2010. When we finally met, in the vault of the Wilcox Progressive Era where I tracked down the article about Dan Harrell’s 1979 murder, Wilcox County Sheriff, Prince Arnold, told me that he had only gotten to know Dan near the end of Dan’s life but learned a great deal from him about working with the community. Arnold was elected sheriff in November 1978, the same election in which Dan was defeated for county commission. The paper reported that the investigation concluded that the shooting was self-defense. When I showed Sheriff Arnold the newspaper article, he made a copy but didn’t comment on the incident. He just shook his head and said, “The man was brilliant. I had total respect for him. People here don’t appreciate all that he did for us.”

Learn more about Dan Harrell and his civil rights leadership in This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, University of Alabama Press. Pre-order now for release Feb 2014.

Why the 1965 Voting Rights Act Still Matters

3. Black Voters Line Up 8 copy

Photo: Finally, the right to vote, Spring 1966, Camden AL.

First in line: Mr. Robert Durant, second Ms. Carrie Davis, 3rd Ms. Emma Ephraim, 4th Ms. Annie Louise Ephraim, 5th Rainer Sessions Dumas, 6th Mr. Tommy Fry.7th_____, 8th Cora Coleman

Thousands of brave freedom fighters were shot at, jailed and barred from employment —others were beaten and even murdered— during the fight for voting rights for Black citizens throughout the South, including in Wilcox County, AL. Wilcox youth and adults learned their rights from their churches, from SLCC, SNCC and the NAACP, and taught them to others, launching a Movement that would span 16 years (1963-1979). Hundreds of Wilcox County activists participated in Bloody Sunday and/or the final March to Montgomery, and continued demonstrations, boycotts and voter registration until the Black majority was finally represented equitably in government and education. Economic equity is a work in progress.Down Home_A (dragged) voting

The murder of voting rights activist Jimmy Lee Jackson of Marion, AL and the demonstration that became known as Bloody Sunday, all brought pressure on Congress and President Johnson to pass and to sign the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) on August 6, 1965. Although most of the states covered by the VRA are in the South, hundreds of smaller jurisdictions and municipalities with a documented history of discrimination were also required to request advance federal permission in order to make changes to their election laws. The Court’s recent ruling overturned this requirement and leaves it to our currently divided Congress to develop new guidelines for oversight. Proof of the importance of pre-clearance for voting procedure changes is evident as six states rushed to pass new voter suppression laws, (New York Times July 5th).  Changes include demands for voter ID in forms not available to thousands of qualified voters, limiting the numbers and hours of polling sites, changes to early voting and absentee ballot procedures, and other barriers that will primarily affect people of color, students, the elderly and the poor, a demographic that tends to vote progressively.

When our brothers and sisters suffered beatings, arrests and even murder in the voting rights fight we never thought we’d live to see the day when there would be voter suppression laws outside the South, especially during the second term of our first African American President. Congress must clarify Section 4 quickly, before more egregious backsliding laws go into effect, and before reactionaries in smaller jurisdictions begin to undo the decades of progress made in electing officials of color.

Maria Gitin is a Life Member of the NAACP, a civil rights veteran, and author This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, University of Alabama Press, 2014.

Portions of this essay were published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel and in the Watsonville Register Pajaronian on Sunday August 4, 2013

Wilcox County AL Civil Rights Timeline July 1965

July 1, 1965 – Camden

The New York Times reports a different version of the June 29th incident with the local sheriff (PC Lummie Jenkins) stating that the boys’ injuries were slight and that both boys were released from the hospital immediately.  Source: New York Times

Author’s note: Frank Conner told this author that he was near death and was hospitalized for months. This author witnessed one other young man with a bandaged head many days after the incident.

July 2, 1965 –Camden

Alabama Sheriff Locks Church

Sheriff Jenkins tells the press that the church deacons asked our Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) headquarters be locked after the attack.

Source: Associated Press, New York Times.

Author’s note: The Sheriff moved us out of the office at gunpoint. I was among those present as we were assessing the damage caused the night before, during the Klansmen’s violent attack on our youth. The courageous deacons reopened the church within a week although we tended to stay away after that, to lessen the danger to the locals.

July 2, 1965 – Atlanta

Rev Hosea Williams report included seven local black activists and one SCOPE worker being beaten in Camden at Antioch Baptist Church. Source: Taylor Branch, At Canaan’s Edge.

Author’s note: The correct date was June 29th and there were eight young men, all locals affiliated with SCLC and /or working with the SCOPE program of SCLC that summer. All were African-American. Five escaped before three were beaten, two badly enough to be hospitalized. A July 3, 1965 article in the Chicago Defender supports this claim and quotes Bob Block (author’s boyfriend at the time) as saying we knew who the attackers were, all local white men wearing stocking masks. At the request of several of the survivors of this attack,   their attackers are named in my forthcoming book. There also was an earlier attack on a number of white and black male workers sleeping at the church.

Larry Scott Butler  wrote on Apr 12, 2013

The incident at the church I can be very specific about as I recorded it in my diary.  We were attacked while in the church in Camden, ran for our lives, and spent the night hiding on the floor of an Afro-American Masonic hall. It happened on 6/23/65 and a local young man named Saul helped us escape.  David Hoon (also white) was part of out group and he fell off the board crossing the ravine behind the church while we were running.  He was alright, but dirty and wet.  Saul led us to the Masonic Hall which we barricaded from the inside.

July 4, 1965

Bootleg liquor was planted in local activist Don Green’s car and he was arrested again although he had just been bailed out by SCOPE.

Source: Author was told by SCLC leaders Harrell and Johns.

 July 4, 1965 We integrated the Bessie W. Munden Pool just outside of Camden www.

July 8, 1965 – Camden

Five carloads of SCOPE workers shot at by white men after being stopped by police. They were trying to leave town to avoid wrath of whites after Gov. Wallace whipped the crowd into a frenzy at a rally in Camden that was attended by thousands.

Source: Author wrote of this in letter home . I was not in one of the cars but could hear the cheers from downtown as I hid at the boy’s dormitory at Camden Academy up on the hill.

 July 9, 1965 – Camden dateline, incident out in county

Summer Community Organization and Political Education canvassers forced off highway by white man in a pick up brandishing a rifle.

Source: SCOPE incident report plus author was participant/witness in incident. This story and others are told in detail in my forthcoming book: This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, Modern South, University of Alabama Press, 2014.

Advance orders now available at discount: www.amazon.com

scope178

Wilcox County, AL Civil Rights Timeline June 1965

June 20, 1965 – Atlanta, GA

Dr King Opens Rights Drive Tuesday

The New York Times quotes King about our Summer Community Organization and Political Education project orientation in Atlanta and plans for the summer to register thousands of voters in 60 counties.

The SCOPE project began June 9th. After traveling cross-country and six days of intensive Orientation in Atlanta, five of us arrived in Camden on June 20th to work with Dan and Juanita Harrell and Major Johns of SCLC and local community leaders Rev Thomas L. Threadgill, Rev Frank Smith, Bob and Georgia Crawford, Jesse Brooks and his daughter Ethel Brooks and many local student leaders.

 June 21, 1965 – Camden, AL

Five SCOPE workers and locals workers are arrested and held for a few hours at the jail. One Black youth, is beaten so badly that when he is released, he is taken to the hospital in Selma.

 June 28, 1965 – Camden, AL

Sherriff Lummie P.C. Jenkins tells local “Negro Cafe” owners, Mr and Mrs. Reynolds that they cannot any longer serve white civil rights workers. When we arrive for lunch, Mr. Reynold asks us to please leave and not bring trouble to his store, so we leave. We did not eat there the rest of the summer.

Eighteen (18) SCOPE-SCLC (including this author) and local civil rights workers are arrested at Antioch Baptist Church and booked into the Camden jail without due process. Local student activist Don Green is beaten in front of us and put in solitary confinement when a knife is discovered in his sock. White SCOPE volunteer Mike Farley is put in a cell with a violent white prisoner and beaten mercilessly throughout the night. We are released a few at a time over the next few days. All are released within five days but none ever know when they will be either released or attacked. A detailed narrative is included in my forthcoming book. 

June 29, 1965 – Camden

 Masked men beat youth guarding SCOPE office at Antioch Baptist Church. Three are beaten badly. Two are hospitalized; one suffers permanent traumatic brain injury. Reports in SCOPE papers state that there were 8 youth attacked by 5 masked men and that two were beaten. Incident Report. p 367 SCOPE of Freedom (Leventhal, Challenge Press). Three of the Klansmen are identified by the youth but none are arrested or serve sentences. Names of the youth and their attackers are included in my forthcoming book.

Camden, AL

Camden, AL

June 30, 1965

The Mayor informed SCOPE workers that anyone found in the church after dark would be arrested for public nuisance and taken into protective custody.

Thank you to Dr. Robert M. Franklin for his generous words about This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight: 

This is an important work about a neglected period of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1965 Voting Rights Movement. Gitin clearly communicates her commitment to civil rights and social justice by presenting us with the fresh voices of unheralded community leaders in Wilcox County, AL. It adds wonderful new insight and texture to the story of how courageous Americans transformed their community and the country.  – Robert Michael Franklin, Ph.D., President-Emeritus of Morehouse College


Wilcox County Voting Rights Timeline – continued

February 26, 1965 – Marion, AL26
Twenty six year old Jimmy Lee Jackson dies from injuries sustained while trying to protect his mother and other family from police attack during a demonstration for the right to register to vote. This atrocity was the catalyst for SNCC and SCLC organizing a march to Montgomery that evolved first into Bloody Sunday, then into Turn Around Tuesday and finally in the long march from Selma to the capital in Montgomery.

For a more detailed timeline visit: http://www.crmvet.org/tim/timhome.htm

March 1, 1965, Monday – Camden, AL
Dr. Martin Luther King joined a march in progress and spoke to a crowd of about 200 attempting to register at the courthouse in Camden. He came over from Selma in a driving rain with a caravan of reporters and federal observers according to Taylor Branch. This is the date when King famously confronted Sherriff Lummie Jenkins asking him to ‘vouch’ for the registrants who were required to:
1. Pass a literacy test,
2. Prove citizenship, and
3. Have an already registered voter ‘vouch’ for their good character and literacy.
The sheriff declined to assist but ten people were allowed to apply to register that day. These were declared the first “Negro” voters in Wilcox County, although there may have been earlier registrants.

Source: Taylor Branch At Canaan’s Edge. Pg 19-20.

Authors note: Mrs. Rosetta Angion of Coy, who was there, told me how proud she felt when Dr King stood on the steps of the old jailhouse (which became the courthouse annex) and gave a rousing speech to encourage them to keep on going. She recalls his telling the crowd, “Doncha get weary chillun.”

March 3, 1965 – Camden

Camden Police Meet March with Clubs March 4:

60 Blacks Alter Camden’s History (headline Chicago Defender

Two articles on the same march: John Lewis of SNCC leads a march of 60 people from Coy, Gees Bend and Camden from St. Francis Church to the courthouse to try to register. He goes inside and walks around, inspires the crowd.

Sources: Chicago Defender (pub date March 4), Mrs. Rosetta Angion interview with author.

March 5, 1965 – Camden

Camden Alabama March by Blacks Fails (headline Chicago Defender)

Led by Johnny Lee Jones of Selma 200 protesters marched from St. Francis Church marched to the courthouse are turned back with batons and tear gas. Marchers are notified that there will be a larger march in Selma on March 7th. Hundreds of Wilcox County residents organize carpools to travel to participate in that march.

Sources: Chicago Defender. Accounts by residents to author, Maria Gitin.

March 7 Sunday- Selma

Bloody Sunday” march in Selma led by SNCC’s Chairman John Lewis and SCLC’s project director Hosea Williams; other organizers included James Bevel and Diane Nash. My SNCC project director, Charles Bonner and numerous other Selma activists were involved. Over 600 nonviolent, women, men and children were stopped and attacked by state troopers and the county sheriff’s posse. They were beaten, tear-gassed by canisters launched from tear gas guns, and beaten by police under Dallas County Sherriff Jim Clark and state troopers ordered by Alabama Director of Public Safety Colonel Al Lingo. People were injured and arrested in large numbers. Dr. King was not present but approved of the original march plan. Many Camden Academy students and adults from Wilcox County were there including: Ethel Brooks, Mary Alice Angion (Robinson) and her sister.The marchers fled back to Brown Chapel where the march began, to take care of the wounded, strategize their next steps. Cleo Brooks of Coy, stated that the community of Coy had more residents on the bridge than any other community in the state of Alabama. Source: eyewitnesses’ accounts to author

March 8, 1965 Monday – National TV

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr appears on national television to call for help, requesting people to flood into Selma to create a tidal wave of humanity that would get the world’s attention and keep the marchers safe.scope002_2

Authors note: As an 18 year old college freshman, I viewed the attack on television in San Francisco, along with footage from the Bloody Sunday march in Selma. This march and Dr. King’s subsequent “call to action” are what inspired hundreds of us to head South to participate in a massive voter registration drive, Summer Community Organizing and Political Education (SCOPE) project including my soon to become boyfriend/fiancé Bob (Luke) Block who was in Chicago at the time. When we reached Wilcox County, we joined forces with the already active SNCC group and local adult and youth leaders.

– Maria Gitin (formerly Joyce Brians) Author and presenter: This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Wilcox County Voting Rights Fight, to be published University of Alabama Press in early 2014.

March 1965 – Selma to Montgomery and Wilcox County Demonstrations 

Selma to Montgomery marches – Many Wilcox County activists participated in one or more of the three most famous marches. There were ongoing actions  in Selma, and continuous demonstrations in Camden as well as elsewhere in Alabama throughout the month of March. Many SNCC and SCLC activists went between Selma and Camden to join the Camden marches.

Sources: eyewitnesses accounts to author. For detailed timeline of Selma to Montgomery marches: http://www.crmvet.org/

 

In Memory of Civil Rights Martyr David Colston Sr., Camden, AL January 23, 1966

scope078 jetDeath threats, firebombing, incarceration and assassination of Southern Blacks seeking freedom and equality continued from the time of enslavement until long after most people believe The Civil Rights Movement ended. Alabama is steeped in the blood of martyrs who have never made the history books, but they were heroes to us. The fact that death was a potential price to be paid by Freedom Fighters was always on our minds.

Mr. David Colston, age 32, was a local resident who had participated in Wilcox County voting rights protests. He and his family were pulling into the parking area outside Antioch Baptist Church to attend a civil rights mass meeting. A white farmer, Jim Reeves, deliberately bumped Colston’s car. When Colston got out to protest, Reeves shot Mr. Colston in the head at close range in front of the Colston family and dozens of community members coming out of the church.

SCLC leader, Daniel Harrell and local leader Rev. Frank Smith were leaders of the meeting in the church. After the police took Reeves into “protective custody.” Harrell and Smith reconvened the mass meeting with a eulogy for Mr. Colston and called for a march the next day. Camden native , King scholar and author, Lewis V. Baldwin, who was still in high school at the time, recalled the march of hundreds of Wilcox County Black residents, as being very solemn, almost silent.

The next day, SCLC Photographer Bob Fitch arrived with Martin Luther King Jr., to take the photos that appeared in Jet Magazine. Fitch told me that the family was devastated but grateful for King’s consoling visit.

Nearly 50 years later, Colston’s namesake nephew, David Colston, was elected as the first Black representative from Wilcox County to serve in the Alabama State Legislature. Of all the civil rights murders in the South in the 1960’s, the Colston assassination is recalled most vividly by the then youn Wilcox County Freedom Fighters. Typical of the times, despite witnesses, the murderer was acquitted. May the Colston family, their relatives and neighbors draw some comfort from knowing that David Colston’s sacrifice is mourned by many of us who continue to fight for racial justice.

Update August 2013: Despite a conservative backlash that consistently drives out the majority of promising young Democrats, David Colston has fulfilled the dream first, of being an Alabama state trooper who truly understands justice and now, of continuing to serve in the statehouse in Montgomery. He will run for a second term in 2014. With the outcry and awareness generated by the recent Supreme Court decision on the 1965 Voting Rights Act http: and the tragic Trayvon Martin case, perhaps good-hearted, strong and smart Alabamans of all races will vote for progress during the 3013 November’s mid-term elections. The future is in your hands: move forward or continue a slide backwards.

The Wilcox County Freedom Fight Comes to Life Again

Wilcox County Freedom Fighters Selma Jubilee 2010Mary Alice Robinson (NCNW Banner), Phillip Young (Freedom Banner), Jessie Crawford, Maria Gitin, Joy Crawford-Washington, Robert Powell (Freedom Banner), Alma King (NCNW Banner)

Wilcox County Freedom Fighters Selma Jubilee 2010
Mary Alice Robinson (NCNW Banner), Phillip Young (Freedom Banner), Jessie Crawford, Maria Gitin, Joy Crawford-Washington, Robert Powell (Freedom Banner), Alma King (NCNW Banner)

Thanks again to all who contributed, assisted and supported the project of recreating the summer of 1965 in Wilcox County Civil Rights History for publication as This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Wilcox County Freedom Fight, forward by Lewis V. Baldwin, to be published by the University of Alabama Press www.uapress.ua.edu in 2014. Were you working for Freedom in the 1960-70’s in Wilcox County? Leave your story in the comment field. Thank you!

Happy New Year as we Continuamos la Lucha – We continue the struggle!

Civil Rights Veterans Maria Gitin & Betty Anderson

Civil Rights Veterans Maria Gitin & Betty Anderson

March 7, 2010 Jubilee and reunion with Robert Powell, Camden Academy student leader:

Reunion of Wilcox County field workers Robert Powell & Maria Gitin

Reunion of Wilcox County field workers Robert Powell & Maria Gitin

Our reunion captured national attention that day. Next year (2014) we plan to walk over the bridge together again. Robert has stayed in touch with his high school friends and with all who support the Freedom Fight.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-03-07-selma_N.htm