Atlanta and Albany are often the focus of the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia, but the movement took root in towns and communities throughout the state. In Savannah, Georgia, the civil rights movement was relatively peaceful compared to that of other Southern cities, primarily due to the cooperation of local businessmen and politicians with African-American leadership. One such business leader was Pratt Adams, Jr. Adams. (1915-1981) was a third-generation Savannah lawyer in his family’s law firm of Adams, Adams, Brennan, and Gardner. After serving in World War II, he settled back into his law career in Savannah. Adams was very active in many civic organizations, including Civic Progress, Inc. Business leaders such as Adams who founded this group realized that the future of the city’s and their own prosperity depended upon minimizing protests and violence. The Bi-Racial Committee, composed of members of the Civic Progress group and several prominent Civil Rights leaders, met several times in 1963 to discuss how to bring about an end of segregation in local hotels, theaters, and restaurants. This primary source set offers a digitized selection of papers from the A. Pratt Adams, Jr. papers housed at the Georgia Historical Society.
The documents in the PDF are in reverse chronological order. The first document in the set is a letter written by A. Pratt Adams, Jr. to Mr. Bennett A. Brown, executive vice president of The Citizens and Southern National Bank. Adams was responding to Brown’s letter concerning the May 11, 1970, race riot in Augusta that resulted in six deaths. The second document is a letter from the Vice President of the Central of Georgia Railway law department. The third document contains the minutes from a meeting held between white businessmen and black leaders in Savannah on February 16, 1965. The final document comes from the August 1, 1963, meeting of the Bi-Racial Committee.
Selection from the A. Pratt Adams, Jr. (1915-1981) collection, 1959-1971. From the Georgia Historical Society Manuscript Collection. MS 2165.
Ethel Hyer was the first woman to serve as president of the Rome, Ga. Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a position she held for 15 years. She was a member of many religious, civic, and social organizations, including the Georgia Council of Human Relations and the Rose Garden Club. She was very active in the Civil Rights Movement during the late 1950s and early 1960s. This primary source set offers a digitized sampling of materials from the Ethel Hyers papers.
Sampling from the Ethel Hyer family papers. From the Georgia Historical Society A. Pratt Adams, Jr. (1915-1981) collection, 1959-1971. MS 2117.
Before watching this film clip, students should have some background understanding of the Albany Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s role in Albany. The Albany Movement was one of the most widely followed civil rights events in Georgia and it was the first concerted mass movement effort to end segregation in an entire city. The movement began in 1961 as several black improvement organizations joined efforts and formed the Albany Movement. The protestors held mass meetings, participated in marches, and formed the famed Freedom Singers. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Albany in December to add momentum to the movement and bring national attention. MLK, Jr. spoke at a mass meeting and participated in a march before being arrested and jailed. After this initial arrest, MLK, Jr. enlisted SCLC staff to coordinate the campaign. In the end, MLK, Jr. felt that his involvement in the Albany Movement was a failure. The Albany Movement continued after King’s departure and the movement spread to neighboring communities in Southwest Georgia.
This film clip, taken July 25, 1962, features Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and an unidentified speaker promoting the need for nonviolence in the Albany Movement. The night before this film was taken some members of the African-American community had thrown rocks and bottles at city police officers out of anger for the arrest of protestors. This clip provides an excellent source for studying the philosophy Martin Luther King, Jr. and members of the SCLC. The clip is also an interesting glimpse into the Albany Movement just before the exit of MLK, Jr. The Civil Rights Digital Library has many more clips related to the Albany movement cataloged and available for viewing.
This video was taken by the WSB-TV news team on January 9, 1961. The clip shows Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes arriving at the University of Georgia. This was the same day that U.S. District Judge Bootle ruled that the University of Georgia had used race as the determinant factor in excluding Hamilton and Hunter from admission to the University. Hunter and Holmes attended classes for the first time two days later on January 11, 1961. What do you think the atmosphere was like at the University when Hunter and Holmes first went to classes? How did Holmes and Hunter pave the way for future African American students to attend public universities in Georgia?
WSB-TV newsfilm clip of African-American students arriving on campus as well as the reaction of white students at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, January 9, 1961 , WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0779, 45:20/47:10, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.
After being recruited by NAACP leader Jesse Hill to help fight the segregation of Georgia’s public universities, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter applied for admission to the University of Georgia in the fall of 1959. After Holmes and Hunter rejected for no reason many times, U.S. District Judge William Bootle ordered UGA to admit them in January of 1961. Yet, this does not mean these students were welcomed in Athens by any means. Governor Ernest Vandiver threatened to close the university rather than submit to integration. These newspaper articles are from UGA’s student newspaper, The Red and Black, which covered these events. What are the biases of the articles written and published in these sources? How can we get the facts from the sources if they are indeed biased? What is the purpose of bias primary sources in research?
The Red and Black (Athens, Ga.) 1893-current, January 05-11, 1961. From the Digital Library of Georgia Historic Georgia Newspaper Collection
At the end of World War II, the United States entered a period of extreme growth and change. Evidence of this growth and change can be seen in the development of the modern Civil Rights Movement. The fight for equality and resistance to discriminatory practices such as segregation of public facilities began in the nineteenth-century when Jim Crow legislation institutionalized segregation based on race. Although resistance to these discriminatory practices did not begin in 1945, the term Civil Rights Movement is often used specifically to refer to the struggles between 1945 and 1970 to end discrimination against African-Americans and to put an end to racial segregation. Several important events occurred during Georgia’s Civil Rights Movement including, the ending of the white primary in 1946, the Albany Movement, and the desegregation of the University of Georgia to name a few. Several Georgians played key leadership roles in the national modern Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Andrew Young. This primary source set includes five analyzed sources related to Georgia’s modern Civil Rights Movement. It also offers additional primary and secondary sources related to the topic. There are several excellent online sources related to Georgia’s Civil Rights Movement linked on this teaching guide as well.