Sedition Trial, Americus, Ga.


After relocating to Sumter County in February 1963, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee fieldworkers Ralph Allen, Don Harris, and John Perdew launched voter registration and community organizing drives under the aegis of the Southwest Georgia Project. Members of Sumter's black community welcomed their arrival, and by July the three activists enjoyed sufficient support to lead large-scale direct action protests in the county seat of Americus. To suppress demands for reform, local authorities arrested the three fieldworkers along with Congress of Racial Equality agricultural worker Zev Aeloney one week later on charges of insurrection, which carried the death penalty under Georgia's 1871 Anti-Treason Act. Their arrest captured national headlines, in part because the activists hailed from reputable Northern universities, and the "Americus Four" became a cause celebre for Civil Rights advocates. Although the charges were ultimately dropped when they were released from prison the following November, their detention significantly retarded Civil Rights protest in Americus where large-scale demonstrations did not resume until summer 1965.

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