Reporter: Morris, Aubrey R..
In this WSB newsfilm clip from October 4, 1965, state senator Leroy Johnson speaks at a press conference in Atlanta, Georgia, about racial tensions over school desegregation in Crawfordville, Georgia following a fact-finding mission to the community.
The clip begins with two African American men, Leroy Johnson and another unidentified man, in a press conference, sitting at a table with microphones in front of them. Cameras film the scene, and a white reporter reaches toward the table to adjust a microphone. Senator Johnson, the first African American elected to the Georgia Senate since Reconstruction, reports on a fact-finding mission he and other African American leaders from around the state conducted in Crawfordville on Sunday, October 3. Johnson asserts that "the Crawfordville situation is sitting on a powder keg." He cites the lack of communication between the African American and white communities as "the most disturbing aspect about the situation" along with the fact that the white leadership has "no plans at all for the solution of the situation."
In the second part of the clip, Johnson continues speaking about the situation in Crawfordville. He alludes to a threat made by Governor Carl Sanders to send the African American students boycotting the local African American high school to reform school. Johnson declares the solution to the problem in Crawfordville is not to send students to reform school. Instead, according to Johnson, "what is now needed is courageous and forthright leadership." He suggests that the governor should encourage local leaders to make desegregation a reality and confirms that "the transferral of students to schools on a non-discriminatory basis is an essential part of any plan of desegregation."
Crawfordville, Taliaferro County, Georgia, a small, predominantly African American community, began experiencing racial problems in the spring of 1965. That spring, the local school board refused to renew the contracts of six African American teachers. While the board did not give a reason for refusing to renew the contracts, members of the African American community asserted it was because of the civil rights activities of the teachers. The teachers had advocated for the use of the only gym in the county, located at the white high school, by the county's African American students. Also that spring, eighty-eight African American students applied to transfer from the local African American school to the all-white Alexander Stephens Institute. Although the school was scheduled to desegregate that fall, all of the white students transferred from the Taliaferro County school to schools in surrounding counties. With no white students enrolled in the local school, the county school board closed the white school and sent all of the students who applied for transfer back to Murden High School, the African American high school. Unfortunately, the African American students were not told of these arrangements until after the registration period had passed for the schools in neighboring Greene, Wilkes, and Warren Counties. African American students protested the continued segregation by refusing to attend the local high school, establishing a Freedom School under the direction of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and holding demonstrations every morning at the central location where white students where transported to schools in neighboring counties. Finally a federal court appointed state school superintendent Claude Purcell to administer the Taliaferro County schools. Purcell ordered schools in Greene, Wilkes, and Warren Counties to admit the African American students who had originally applied for school transfers in Taliaferro County. On November 17, 1965, African American students from Taliaferro County began riding the buses with white students to integrated schools in neighboring counties.
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 state senator Leroy Johnson speaking about racial tensions over school desegregation following a fact-finding mission to Crawfordville from Atlanta, Georgia, 1965 October 4, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1317, 4:24/05:08, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.