In this WSB newsfilm clip from July 20, 1970, members of a special committee of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) meet with the Bibb County Board of Commissioners to discuss equal employment opportunities for African Americans in Macon, Georgia; also Macon mayor Ronnie Thompson speaks to a meeting of the Optimists Club.
The clip is divided into two segments, part 1 and b-roll. Part one of the clip begins with a brief view of the Bibb County Courthouse in downtown Macon. Inside the county building, African American and white men sit down around a table. A white man in a brown suit appears to speak. His comments are not recorded. Next Reverend Julius C. Hope, Macon minister and president of the Georgia NAACP, opens with the proverb of walking a mile in another person's shoes. Hope explains that African Americans in the community are tired of living with unfulfilled promises for so long. He believes that consideration of the situation is "long overdue." Bibb County commissioner F. Emory Greene, responds to Hope's comments and agrees that African Americans should be represented at all levels of government. However, Greene asserts that that people should not be fired because they are of the "wrong" race. He concludes officials should consider hiring "qualified Blacks as the vacancy exists" but does not support creating vacancies just for African Americans. Behind Greene, men and women sit in two rows aong the wall of the conference room. The camera looks through a doorway into the conference room, focuses on Reverend Hope sitting at the conference table, and later moves to another unidentified African American man at the meeting. Bibb County Board of Commissioners chairman Earl Zimmerman, stands in front of a mural to speak to the meeting. Zimmerman points to the number of employers seeking qualified African American employees as one reason for the shortage of African American county employees. Zimmerman explains that the county is also limited in the wages it can pay and cannot compete with private industries. After Zimmerman's comments, the meeting appears to end, and the participants push their chairs back from the table and stand up.
The next portion of the clip records comments made by Macon mayor Ronnie Thompson at a meeting of the Optimists Club. Thompson recalls his youth in a "laboring family from a mill town." He explains that he knows the discrimination of poverty and declares that "the best way that I know to fight poverty is to go to work." Thompson claims he knows of white and African American people who have had worked hard and have made good. After Thompson's comments, the camera shows the audience. As Thompson finishes his comments, the audience gives him a standing ovation, and Thompson returns to his seat. The b-roll shows more of Thompson's speech at the Optimists Club. Thompson declares that the city of Macon will fight for its citizens and businesses. He asserts that it is right for the community to "stand up for all the things that have been labored for by those gone on before us."
During the summer of 1971, racial unrest flared in Macon, Georgia. At the end of June, Jimmie Lee White, an African American city employee, was shot and killed by white police officer John R. Beck. Another African American man, John George Turner, was found hanged in a city jail cell after having been picked up on a disorderly conduct charge; Turner's death was ruled a suicide. Mayor Ronnie Thompson issued a dusk-to-dawn curfew during the next several days of unrest and banned the sale of alcohol, guns, and ammunition. Violence in the community included several fire bombing attempts, although the only two bombs to explode burned empty houses. On July 5, Mayor Thompson lifted the curfew and authorized the resumption of alcohol, gun, and ammunition sales. On July 5, a biracial committee formed at the beginning of Thompson's term as mayor held a meeting to find ways to calm the city. Thompson played an active role in leading the city's response to the racial unrest, especially that of the police department. At one point, Thompson carried a machine gun while leading police on a hunt for a suspected sniper.
On July 12, members of the Macon NAACP chapter, led by Reverend J. Lorenzo Key, launched a three-prong program aimed at bettering the situation of local African Americans. The program employed pickets, economic moves, and a massive voter education campaign. African American leaders arranged a series of six meetings with leaders of community government and civic organizations. On July 20, a special committee of the NAACP met with the Bibb County Board of Commissioners and county department heads. The two-hour meeting was the second of the six meetings arranged with government and civic leaders. During the meeting the NAACP leaders asked that African Americans be given equal employment opportunities. After the meeting, Bibb County Commissioners urged all county offices to take necessary steps to eliminate racial discrimination in hiring. The board also urged measures to ensure appropriate employment of Blacks in several public functions. The Board offered its facilities and assistance for that purpose.
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 a meeting between the Bibb County Board of Commissioners and members of a special committee of the local branch of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) urging equal employment opportunities for African Americans; also Mayor Ronnie Thompson speaks to a meeting of the Optimists Club, Macon, Georgia, 1971 July 20, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1746, 48:48/53:09, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.