Reporter: Whipkey, Jim.
In this WSB newsfilm clip from May 13, 1970, reporter Jim Whipkey interviews entertainer James Brown following Brown's attempts to help end a race riot in Augusta, Georgia.
The clip begins showing a night scene and reporter Jim Whipkey standing outside of a store. Whipkey indicates that a curfew in Augusta has worked to prevent further rioting in the city. Whipkey explains that on Monday, May 11, 1971, "these streets were filled with rioters, looters, and burners." In response to the riot, Whipkey continues, the Georgia National Guard and local police patrolled the business district and white neighborhoods while local white and African American leaders "tried to work out their differences." Whipkey reports that the following night, Tuesday, May 12, saw more fires set and crowds dispersed. He explains that African American entertainer James Brown came to his hometown to encourage people to calm down and stop rioting. Whipkey indicates that Brown had a calming influence on the community.
Next, Whipkey interviews James Brown. Brown encourages leaders and residents to show respect for each other and to try to work for a solution. He believes that people can find "a medium of reason where we can understand each other" and stresses the importance of cooperation, especially in a situation in which people are dying. The clip concludes with Whipkey again commenting on the situation. He reports that Brown has left the city and that the African American citizens have "cooled it." He reports the stark facts that "six men are dead, fifty-one businesses have been burned," and Augusta is still under curfew.
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 headed 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. Guardsmen continued to patrol the streets. 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.
Local identification number: Clip number: wsbn_59632