Marching toward Freedom’s Land

Youth demonstrators 45th anniversary commemoration

Former youth demonstrators 45th anniversary commemoration

Looking Back on Wilcox County in the 60’s-70’s from the 21st Century

There were far more people who were active in the Movement and far more violent incidents than I had been aware of during my short stay in Wilcox County in the summer of 1965. As it turned out, nearly every former student of Camden Academy was in at least one march, whether forbidden to do so or not.  We outside civil rights workers saw only a partial snapshot of any given moment. Some schoolteachers gladly let the children go and even joined them in their almost daily marches and in boycotting businesses that wouldn’t hire Blacks. March after march was held from 1965 to 1972 because the Wilcox County School Board continued to defy federal orders to provide integrated, equal facilities, and materials to all public school students.

Developer and minister Cleo Brooks (deceased) was one of the hundreds of students who participated in school integration marches. Because he was very young and kept near the back, he noticed that every day when they marched from the church to the courthouse, there was a white line chalked on the pavement. In 2009 he told me, “The powers that be put that line there to indicate where we had to stop marching that day. But it kept moving forward about ten feet a day. Someone higher up must have told them we were going to get there someday. We would arrive at the courthouse and we were going to win the right to equal public schools. They just wanted to make it as slow as they could.”

Rosetta Anderson, Camden activist

“We had so many marches, for years actually, so I don’t recall all of the dates,” Mrs. Anderson went on to say. “‘Big Lester’ Hankerson of SCLC led one march with lots of our local leaders. Four hundred twenty-nine people were arrested that day, including my daughter Lena Jo.  The students were getting more militant by then, ‘Lock us up honky!’ was part of what they chanted as hundreds were placed under arrest. They took the students out to Camp Camden in busses. Those were some times, I tell you!” (2011)

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