1961 November 17

Albany, Georgia, Civil Rights Movement Begins; Kennedy Administration Fails to Support


Often forgotten in most histories of the civil rights movement, the Albany (Georgia) Movement, which began on this day, involved a series of civil rights actions by a coalition of SNCC, the NAACP and SCLC. Police Chief Laurie Pritchett adroitly avoided confrontations that would bring unfavorable national publicity to him and the city. (In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, Sheriff Bull Connor’s uses of fire hoses and police dogs against demonstrators galvanized the nation and generated support for a federal civil rights law.) Leaders of the Albany Movement asked the Kennedy administration to protect their efforts to secure African-American voting rights, but the administration did not respond. In fact, at one point the Justice Department indicted some of the leaders of the Albany Movement on various criminal charges. In the end, the Albany struggle was unsuccessful.

Anger at the Kennedy administration over the Albany events was a major part of the background to John Lewis’ censored speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, in which he originally planned to criticize the Kennedy administration for its failures in Albany. Influential members of the March coalition thought his remarks were inflammatory, and threatened to withdraw if his speech was not toned down. Not wanting to destroy the march, Lewis removed the inflammatory remarks from his speech. See August 28, 1963 for his speech.

See the original Albany Movement documents:  http://www.crmvet.org/info/albhome.htm

Learn more about the Albany struggle: http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/albany-movement-campaigns-full-integration-georgia-fall-1961-summer-1962

Learn more at the Albany Civil Rights Institute: http://albanycivilrightsinstitute.org/

Learn more about SNCC: Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (1981)

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