In this WSB newsfilm clip from May 12, 1970, Georgia Governor Lester Maddox and an unidentified African American young man comment on a race riot in Augusta, Georgia; the clip also shows the effects of the riot.
The clip begins with a nighttime, aerial view of a burning building. Lines of lights near the fire suggest the burning building is along a large road near an intersection. The camera focuses on a fire burning in a building and later on the wreckage of the Nulox Headquarters. In a daytime scene, a fire fighter uses a hose to spray smoldering ruins at the Nulox. Another firefighter and an African American man watch. Later cars drive past the remains of another burnt building and a car with a smashed windshield.
After focusing on the effects of the riot, the clip turns to a press conference where reporters interview Georgia governor Lester Maddox. Several unidentified white men stand behind Governor Maddox as he speaks. Maddox blames the riot on a forty-year old conspiracy to destroy the country. Next, an unidentified African American young man speaks to an off-screen reporter. The young man disagrees with Governor Maddox's assertion that the riot is the result of a conspiracy. He also disagrees with Augusta city leaders, specifically Augusta mayor Millard Beckum and police chief Broadus Bequest, who claim there is no racial tension in Augusta. The young man declares, "whereas our local officials have not seen a problem, now the nation knows that Augusta has a problem." The clip ends with a police car driving through an African American neighborhood. A man holds a rifle out the window of the car. Men and women stand on the sidewalk and watch as the car drives past.
On Saturday, May 9, 1970, sixteen-year-old Charlie Oatman died in the Augusta jail. Although his death was initially blamed on a fall from his cell bunk, the coroner and Oatman's father found signs of torture when they examined the body. The African American community in Augusta had repeatedly complained to officials about conditions in the county jail, particularly about the practice of placing juveniles in the same cells as hardened criminals. Oatman's death outraged the community; that anger grew when it was revealed that Oatman had been tortured and killed by his cell mates. On Monday, May 11, 1970, several local African American leaders marched to city hall and met with city and county officials. Although the meeting was reportedly productive, the large crowd of African Americans who waited outside during the meeting became angry. They tore down the Georgia flag, which at the time incorporated the Confederate battle flag, and burned it. The crowd moved downtown and the violence escalated from overturning garbage cans to throwing rocks at passing cars to pulling people out of cars and beating them. That afternoon and evening, more than fifty fires were set in businesses owned by white and Chinese merchants in the African American district. At about one o'clock in the morning Governor Maddox sent Georgia National Guardsmen and state highway patrolmen to Augusta. During the rioting that night, six African American men were shot in the back by policemen. Although there were claims of snipers during the rioting, no policemen, National Guardsmen, or patrolmen were shot by African Americans during the rioting. The next day, Augusta mayor Millard Beckum instituted a 9 pm to 5 am curfew that remained in place the rest of the week as guardsmen continued to patrol the street. There were fewer incidents. Elsewhere in the country, students and demonstrators had been shot and killed at Kent State in Ohio and in Jackson, Mississippi earlier in the month.
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.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of the effects of a race riot as well as comments about the riot made by Governor Lester Maddox and an unidentified African American young man in Augusta, Georgia, 1970 May 12, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0986, 17:41/19:47, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.