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The Albany Movement

By Pamela Jackson | | February 2, 2012

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The struggle of African-Americans throughout history chronicles years of slavery, suffering, segregation and a renewed hope that one day things would change.

In the early 1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement began to garner national attention, one young man decided to get involved and forever changed history in Albany, Ga.

Charles M. Sherrod, born in Petersburg, Va., in 1937, was a key leader in the Stu-dent Nonviolent Coordinating Committee while enrolled at Virginia Union College, Richmond, Va. He joined SNCC in 1960 and became involved in multiple demonstrations and voter registration drives.

“Those of us who were involved in the movement are still very sensitive to that period in time,” Sherrod said. “Being jailed and beaten over and over because of the color of my skin were rough times, but we were on a mission to desegregate all public facilities in this city. We started with the railroad and bus stations.”

Sherrod and fellow SNCC member, Cordell Reagon, inspired a host of students, parents and community members when they traveled to Albany to launch a voter registration drive and a series of other activities, which eventually led to what is known as the Albany Movement in October 1961. Together, they recruited students from the former Albany State College, now Albany State University, and Monroe High School to protest segregation and the disenfranchisement of blacks.

“More than 500 students staged sit-ins and were arrested, jailed and beaten,” Sherrod said. “I learned from reading about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi the tenets of nonviolence, so our goal was to fill the jail cells in and around Albany to capacity until our suffering and injustices were felt. We were prepared to go to jail and remain there until desegregation occurred.”

Sherrod added parents, siblings and other relatives were sad, frustrated and afraid for all of them being locked up in the jails, but they would pray, sing and have a good time to pass the time.

“One of the parents, out of fear, called for King to come to Albany to help us and Mount Zion and Shiloh Baptist churches were filled to capacity to protest the arrests,” he said. “(King’s) appearance made it easier for us to get locations for our meetings because they knew he was here.”

Sherrod, a civil rights veteran, not only marched and organized demonstrations alongside King, he went to jail with him on a few occasions.

According to the website, www.crmvet.org, King arrived and lead 265 marchers downtown to city hall where they were all arrested, bringing the total number of arrests to more than 750. King was transferred to Sumter County Jail in Americus, Ga., where he remained incarcerated to protest segregation and denial of basic human rights.

The website further noted King was later released in return for halting the Albany Movement demonstrations and if he left town. However, the power structure in place failed to follow through on their promises, so the demonstrations, sit-ins, protests and arrests continued through 1963 and early 1964, but not in the mass numbers of 1961-1962.

In early 1964, the city finally repealed all segregation ordinances and 32 college students, who were expelled for their participation in the Albany Movement, were awarded honorary baccalaureate degrees 50 years later from ASU in December 2011.

For more information on the Albany Movement, visit www.albanycivil rightsinstitute.org or call (229) 432-1698 for a tour of the Civil Rights Museum. Visitors may also tour the Charles Sherrod Civil Rights Park located on the corner of Whitney Avenue and S. Jackson Street in downtown Albany.


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