In this WSB newsfilm clip from June 21, 1971, Georgia governor Jimmy Carter addresses a news conference, and updates reporters on conditions in Columbus, Georgia, where a series of race riots have taken place. Carter attributes an impasse in community negotiations to the actions of civil rights activist Hosea Williams.
The clip begins with several silent shots of Governor Carter, seated at his desk, where he is attended by a staff member. Resting along the wall behind him beneath a large round seal are several framed documents and a handcrafted representation of the Georgia state flag. He speaks into an array of microphones. Next, a shot taken from behind Carter captures a small group of reporters seated in front the governor's desk. The next shot opens with sound. Here, Carter explains that it is difficult for two groups. "black and white, or otherwise" to negotiate successfully without the eagerness of their leaders to achieve a solution. He states that he personally does not believe that Hosea Williams is seeking a solution, or that he is trying to establish communication between the African American and white communities of Columbus. Instead, Carter thinks that Williams' motive is to gain personal publicity and "create dissension." He says that Williams' actions make it "very difficult" for members of Columbus' African American community members "with a legitimate grievance" to resolve issues with white leaders attempting to avoid disturbances in their communities, or to meet "legitimate grievances" on the part of African Americans.
During the summer of 1971, violence broke out in Columbus, Georgia, a response to a series of racially motivated suspensions and firings in the Columbus police department, and the city's subsequent failure to address the grievances of African American officers. Led by Hosea Williams, the regional vice president and national executive director of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), members of SCLC came to Columbus and helped organize nonviolent protest activities in support of the city's African American policemen. Even though these events were peaceful, cumulative racial tension gave way to looting, brick-throwing, and firebombing that impacted Columbus for days. Williams persistently demanded accountability from Columbus' white officials regarding institutional racism and police violence in African American neighborhoods. Those same officials viewed him as an outside agitator, and blamed him for inciting violence, derailing negotiations between local community leaders, and delaying a restoration of order. The rioting escalated on June 21, 1971, when a white officer shot and killed a twenty-year old African American youth after an alleged armed robbery. In response to the continuing violence, the Columbus City Council invoked an emergency ordinance, and Columbus mayor J. R. Allen declared a citywide state of emergency, during which an evening curfew was imposed, and the sale of firearms and liquor were prohibited. State involvement in the crisis, under the authority of Governor Carter, included the dispatch of riot-trained Georgia state patrolmen to Columbus, and an appeal to Georgia governor George Wallace to halt liquor sales in neighboring Phenix City, Alabama.
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 governor Jimmy Carter condemning Hosea Williams for creating racial unrest in Columbus, Georgia, 1971 June 21, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1598, 9:09/10:08, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.