This silent WSB newsfilm clip from 1963 includes shots of firemen extinguishing a dumpster fire; an African American man washing a Savannah police department squad car; police officers playing guitar, singing and dancing; Savannah police headquarters; local street and sidewalk activity; a police round-up of African American protestors; county jail; and a mass meeting with civil rights activists Andrew Young, James Bevel, and Robert Spike in attendance.
The clip, which is about five minutes long, begins with a series of shots of a dumpster fire in a lot adjacent to a hardware store; first, a man tries to put out the fire with a canister extinguisher, next, a firetruck rushes by, and a group of firemen extinguish the blaze with firehoses, while a white cameraman steps into the shot as he films the activity. This is followed by several shots taken at the Savannah police station, which include an African American man washing a squad car; white police officers and employees enjoying downtime while singing, smoking, listening, and dancing to music played by a police officer on his guitar; and a closeup of the sign outside of the Savannah police station.
Next, several scenes depict daily activity on the streets of Savannah, these include an African American youth bicycling down a residential street balancing a large box, a busy sidewalk populated by African American pedestrians, and several shots of Savannah's Broughton Street retail district. After a break in the clip, a large group of African American men exit a building in an orderly fashion, and are guided by police officers onto a bus; a small group of white onlookers watch from either side of the walkway as the African American men pass by. Printed on the side of the bus is the word "county," the rest of the writing on the bus is illegible. This is followed by shots of the county jail, which include the entrance sign, and the front door, covered by signs that display separate visiting hours for white and African American inmates.
Scenes from a mass meeting follow another break in the clip, beginning with Robert Spike, the director of the Commission of Religion and Race, National Council of Churches (CORR), who chants between an unidentified African American man and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organizer James Bevel. The men are seated in front of a mural inside of what appears to be a nightclub, presumably Savannah's Flamingo Club, where a mass meeting is being held. The clip jumps to a shot of Spike, in the same seat, listening and looking around. Later, a group of African Americans seated in folding chairs sing and clap together; this is followed by several more shots of Spike exchanging words with people inside of the nightclub, including SCLC organizer Andrew Young. Next, James Bevel, wearing his trademark overalls and yarmulke, speaks emphatically to a large audience from a podium. The crowd in the club is predominantly African American; white reporters and photographers are clustered around the podium holding up microphones and taking photographs. Shots of Bevel's speech are interspersed with reactions from the crowd; the clip ends on a shot of the audience.
African Americans in Savannah, Georgia, were engaged in confrontational anti-segregation demonstrations throughout the summer of 1963. In July of that summer, Martin Luther King dispatched Andrew Young and James Bevel, two Southern Christian Leadership Conference ministers, to Savannah to support demonstrations against the prison detainment of Hosea Williams, leader of the Chatham County Crusade for Voters (CCCV). Williams had been imprisoned indefinitely under an arcane Civil War ordinance designed to prevent facilitators from releasing runaway slaves, and was being held on additional warrants sworn out by white citizens of Savannah intent on obstructing his release. Due to a recent split between CCCV and the Savannah NAACP, the local NAACP branch did not support pro-Williams demonstrations, and local churches, in step with the NAACP, refused to accommodate Savannah Movement meetings, forcing them to be held underground at the Flamingo nightclub. Young and Bevel attended a mass meeting at the club on July 12, 1963, where they preached nonviolence, and members of the audience were encouraged to dispense of anything that could be used as a weapon. Robert Spike, the director of CORR, was also in attendance. That evening, after the meeting, Young and Bevel participated with their audience in a nighttime march that resulted in mass arrests. Following a season of demonstrations that jailed over five hundred protesters, Savannah business leaders agreed to a widespread desegregation plan that went into effect on October 1, 1963.
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: Series of WSB-TV newsfilm clips of street rioting, Savannah police headquarters, and a mass meeting attended by civil rights activists Andrew Young, James Bevel and Robert Spike, Savannah, Georgia, 1963, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1118, 37:42/42:59, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.