In this WSB newsfilm clip from July 26, 1965, Reverend Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Reverend J. R. Campbell, leader of the Sumter County Movement, speak to reporters about racial and voter registration conflicts in Americus, Sumter County, Georgia. The clip begins with Williams sitting beside John Lewis, also a member of SCLC. Behind the men is a sign for SCOPE, the Summer Community Organization and Political Education Project, a 1965 SCLC effort directed by Hosea Williams. Williams explains that civil rights workers seek to expand Atlanta's image of "a city too busy to hate" to all of Georgia. He announces that the citizens of Sumter County, represented by Reverend J. R. Campbell and the Sumter County Movement, are uniting with SCLC and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to intensify their efforts to fight voter intimidation in south and southwest Georgia. The united effort will intensify ongoing demonstrations, beginning with a mass meeting Tuesday, July 27, followed by a round-the-clock vigil at the Sumter County Courthouse. Williams declares that civil rights workers will do what is necessary to bring about justice in the area, although there have been beatings, harassment, and rumors of law enforcement officers intentionally failing to protect demonstrators who become victims of violence. He mentions sending North Carolina SCLC field secretary Golden Frinks as an emissary of SCOPE. Williams adds that if the situation continues to worsen, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the SCLC, will come to Americus. He outlines the civil rights demands for Americus, including: increased access to voter registration; release of Mary Fishe Bell and her compatriots; law enforcement protection for all citizens; and the establishment of a biracial committee with African American members selected by the black community. Additionally, Williams demands a resolution to conflict over the recent Sumter County elections. On July 20, Sumter County held a special election for Justice of the Peace in which Mary Fishe Bell, a 24-year-old Spelman graduate, was the first African American woman to run for public office in the county. During the election, Ms. Bell and three other African American women were arrested for trying to integrate the "white" voting line. Williams proposes that this be done by voiding the results, rescheduling the election, and releasing those arrested; he promises that the demonstrations will halt when the demands outlined are met. The four women were held on $1000 bond from July 20 until July 30 when federal judge W. A. Bootle ordered their release, and declared the segregated elections illegal. Finally, Reverend J. R. Campbell, president of the Sumter County Movement, answers a reporter's questions about impediments to voter registration. Campbell explains that African Americans wishing to register to vote are hampered by the unpredictable hours of the registrar's office and as well as the literacy tests. They also must overcome harassment and fear of the sheriff, the courthouse, the polls, the power structure, and brutality and lack of protection. After President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, seventeen-hundred African Americans in Sumter County registered to vote within a two-week period, almost doubling the number of registered black voters.
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: wsbn48397