In this series of WSB newsfilm clips from July 1965, African Americans demonstrate for equal rights and members of the white community attend the funeral for Andrew Whatley, a white youth killed during racial unrest earlier in the week.
The clip begins with a silent portion in which a funeral procession drives down a wet street, a black hearse among the line of cars. Next the camera shows scenes from a civil rights demonstration at a grocery store, possibly a Kwik-Chek in Americus. First, demonstrators push grocery carts through the isles of the store. After this demonstrators walk outside a building led by three African American girls; the demonstrators appear to be singing. Next an interracial group is seen outside of a Kwik-Chek in Americus. A white man stands in front of doors facing a crowd of African Americans. There is some scuffling before state troopers step in and separate the white and African Americans in the group. An African American is seen carrying another man over his shoulder as he walks away from the group.
Later the clip returns to the funeral for Andrew Whatley, a white young man who was shot during racial unrest earlier in the week. White pallbearers carry a casket out of First Baptist Church. Two men walk away from the church with a woman dressed in black between them. Other mourners follow the three out of the church and the hearse drives past the building. Several white policemen in shirtsleeves stand near a car and put their hats on as they walk away. A man is seen lying in the backseat of a car. A police car drives away with several officers inside it.
Next, images of the demonstration inside the store are repeated, interspersed with images of a Colonial Store. The steeple of the First Baptist church is seen through some trees as cars drive past the church; images of the funeral seen earlier are also repeated. Outside the church, a sign advertises the First Baptist church. After this the camera shows scenes from the downtown area of Americus including the Sumter County Courthouse and the state patrol building. Outside the state patrol building is a sign indicating that it is post number ten. Later men are seen outside of the Wiggins Sing Station. The Wiggins Sing Station, on the corner of Lamar and Hampton Streets, was where Andrew Whatley was standing when he was shot and killed.
The sound portion of the clip begins with an interview between reporter Tom Brokaw and Lyda Whatley, the mother of the young man killed during the racial unrest earlier in the week. Mrs. Whatley indicates that her son worked two jobs and sometimes would go out to eat before coming home after work. Whatley reports that her son worked during the day at the Manhattan Shirt Company and in the evenings at the drive-in in town. According to Whatley, she has lived in Americus for thirty-two years and her son was born and raised in the community. The camera briefly focuses on a Georgia State Patrol car before returning to the interview with Brokaw and Mrs. Whatley. Mrs. Whatley explains that her son had been inducted into the Marine Corps the week before and was scheduled to report in November. Brokaw then ends the interview, thanking Mrs. Whatley for her time and expressing his sympathy at her loss. Following a break in the clip Brokaw interviews Americus mayor T. Griffith Walker who implies the demonstrations were uncalled for and asserts "the question which is at issue is really for the courts." Walker also reports that the city police and state troopers are providing protection for the demonstrators.
Next, an African American civil rights leader, possibly Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) worker Willie Bolden, speaks to a gathering of African Americans as state troopers stand behind the crowd. Bolden rejects the idea that demonstrations caused the violence in the community. As he speaks, the camera shows the listening audience. After more images of demonstrators and state troopers, as well as demonstrators singing "Keep your eyes on the Prize," Bolden again speaks to the audience. He expresses regret at the death of Andrew Whatley and reminds his listeners that following the news of Whatley's death, the civil rights movement stopped demonstrating for twenty-four hours. However, Bolden expresses regret that neither the halt in demonstrations nor the death of Whatley has brought any changes in the community. He asserts the demonstrators' desire to be free He also criticizes mayor Walker for taking a personal vacation during the demonstration. Bolden then relates a conversation he had with SCLC leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in which he told King to prepare to come to Americus because "unless we can solve the problems of this city today, somebody will die very soon." Bolden speaks about asking friends from around the country to "remove this ill from this society." Later another civil rights worker speaks, relating the counsel from Governor Carl Sanders that the civil rights workers should solve their problems through the courts instead of demonstrations. The speaker disagrees with this advice and suggest that "there are also some things that you don't need to work through the courts."
After this is another silent portion where men from the Georgia State Patrol stand together in a wooded area and receive instruction from a uniformed officer, drive in patrol cars, and lead an African American man through a doorway. Later Atlanta businessman and segregationist Lester Maddox speaks to a white crowd in a gymnasium. The audience listen and applauds Maddox's speech and is later seen standing outside in the dark. Following a break in the clip the camera focuses on a building with a sign over the doorway announcing the "Freedom Center." An African American boy sits on the bed of a truck; the truck bed is filled with melons. African American demonstrators participate in a daytime march. One of the signs carried by the demonstrators has the slogan "I don't want to keep my money but you are keeping my rights." African Americans sitting on a porch watch the demonstrators. The protesters walk past a state patrol car, through the downtown area, and near the Sumter County Courthouse. At one point the demonstrators stand in a circle and clap their hands and appear to sign. The clip ends with patrolmen and white citizens observing the demonstration.
On July 20, four African American women were arrested for standing in the whites-only line during a county-held special election for Justice of the Peace in Sumter County, Georgia. One of the women arrested was Mary Fishe Bell, the first African American political candidate in Sumter County. After the women's arrest, the Sumter County Movement, the local civil rights organization, held demonstrations three times a day to draw attention to race relations in Americus and to protest the arrest and the mishandling of the election. On July 28, Andrew Whatley, a 21-year-old white Marine recruit was shot to death from a passing car occupied by two African American men. Whatley had been standing with a crowd of whites at Wiggins Sing Station; some of the crowd were throwing rocks at black drivers as they passed. Whatley's funeral was held on July 31 at First Baptist Church in Americus. After ten days of increasing racial tensions and demonstrations, federal judge W. A. Bootle ordered that the incarcerated women be released and that segregated elections end in Sumter County. African Americans agreed to halt demonstrations in Americus on August 13, 1965.
Title supplied by cataloger.
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 WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
Local identification number: Clip number: wsbn38840