This silent WALB newsfilm clip from August and September, 1962, shows the ruins of three African American churches from Georgia's Terrell and Lee counties that burned down after they were used for voter registration meetings. The clip begins on Sunday, September 9, 1962, when fire destroyed Mount Olive Baptist and Mount Mary Baptist churches, two churches in Sasser, Terrell County, Georgia. First, the ruins of Mount Olive Baptist Church appear. Ashes cover the church steps, the church bell lies on its side in the rubble, and the brick supports and chimney stand out among the smoldering remains. Next, after a break in the clip, ruins of Mount Mary Baptist Church are also seen, including metal roofing material, two sets of steps, and brick supports. Nearby, African American women and children watch the smoldering piles and comfort one another. Former baseball player Jackie Robinson, who was in Albany when the churches burned, later inspected the sites and served as honorary head of the fundraising effort to rebuild the churches, donating one hundred dollars to the cause. Finally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. walks beside the ruins of Shady Grove Baptist Church near Leesburg, in Lee County, on August 15, 1962. Reverends Ralph D. Abernathy and Wyatt T. Walker of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) stand beside other men who observe the ruins. A white man with a notepad appears to be speaking to a gathered crowd. Three of the four cinderblock walls of the church remain, although the east wall and the roof have collapsed. Community members viewed the August 14, 1962 Shady Grove church fire with suspicion, since the church had recently hosted African American voter registration efforts; particularly when the officials who inspected the sites stated that the fires were caused by either lightning or faulty wiring. In response to the suspected arsons at these voter registration meeting sites, the United States Justice Department considered filing a federal suit alleging voter intimidation.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WALB News Film collection.
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Cite as: WALB newsfilm of the burned ruins of African American churches in Terrell and Lee counties, Georgia, 1962 August and September, Albany Movement compilation, WALB News Film collection, Albany Movement Compilation Roll 5 [Tape 2], Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Award Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga., as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.