First Weeks of April 1965 – Camden Demonstrations Continue

scope051_2April 2, 1965 – Camden

March is Blocked at Camden 2D Day: Mayor and Deputies Bar Walk to Courthouse

Students from Camden Academy, adults from Gees Bend and others continue to defy the mayor and city officials and demonstrate without a permit, every day for at least a week. They continue to be assaulted with either or both tear gas and smoke bombs but the students announce “We’ll be back!” Source: Chicago Defender

Author’s note: Adults who were then students who told me that demonstrators from Coy and other communities were involved as well and that there were weeks of weekday marches both from Antioch Baptist church and from Camden Academy for the rest of the school year into May.

April 4, 1968  Martin Luther King Jr Assassinated in Memphis, TN during his support for a sanitation workers strike. Union busting continues today in 2013 as living wages slip out of the reach of millions of willing workers.

 April 6, 1965 – Camden

 Use Smoke, Tear Gas on Ala Demonstrators

Eleven (11) arrested in a third march in the same week. Smoke bombs and tear gas both were used. Adults began at Antioch Baptist Church and students at the Camden Academy.

Source: Chicago Defender.

Author’s note:  Some former students I interviewed said that the police tried to confuse them by using both smoke and tear gas bombs shot from big barrel guns. The police then mocked the students if they panicked when it was smoke instead of tear gas. As time went on the student organizers gave the youth wet towels to cover their faces before leaving campus to march.

Camden demonstrators from out of town, dubbed “outside agitators” may have included Bruce Hartford, Charles “Chuck Bonner” Bonner, Amos Snell, Luke (Bob) Block, Strider “Arkansas” Benson and other civil rights workers. Bob/Luke Block was shocked with a cattle prod but stayed and worked in Wilcox with both SNCC and SCLC until August.

Camden Academy Student Demonstration 1965

On March 31, 1965, Wilcox County students were peacefully demonstrating for their parents’ voting rights when they were attacked with smoke bombs by the sheriff’s posse, just outside the Camden City limits. This demonstration was organized at the request of the students, by Daniel Harrell and Major Johns, the two SCLC field directors who later directed my SCOPE project. There was a group that marched from St. Francis church outside the city limits and another that came down the hill from Camden Academy. The St. Francis group included young people from Gees Bend, Coy and other small county communities.

Jkt_Gitin_final cover

Update May 28, 2013: Thanks to Elbert Goode who identified the student in the center of the photo is Willie Parker of Coy, AL. May he rest in peace, knowing that he fought the good fight. Let’s find those two young women – thanks for your assistance! Please leave a comment if you know their names. This image discovered that the image is owned by the Associated Press, and was taken by the late great Bill Hudson, one of the top civil rights photographers. I have licensed the use of the image for my forthcoming book,This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, University of Alabama Press. Estimated publication date: February 15, 2014.

May everyone, especially children, be safe and secure, as we continue to work and to demonstrate for a nonviolent and equitable world.  Paz.