In this WSB newsfilm clip from Rome, Georgia, on September 2, 1971, African American grievances are discussed by Ben Lucas, chair of the Board of Commissioners, and an African American man, possibly Jimmy Hardy, a twenty-two-year-old elected member of the Black Coordinating Committee.
The clip is divided into two parts. The first part of clip begins with three white men standing outside a fire station. Two white men drive by in a police car, and other cars drive the streets of downtown Rome. Next, three African American men sit around a table covered with documents; a white reporter is seen speaking to them. One of the men, possibly Jimmy Hardy, answers the reporter's questions, calling it a mistake and a disservice to link the rape and African American grievances. He explains that the African American unrest began over a year ago. The rape mentioned was the alleged rape of a seventeen-year-old white girl by eight African American males, ages fourteen to twenty-three. The eight young men were arrested August 17, and reports of police brutality shortly followed.
After these comments, two white men are seen speaking outside a building; Ben Lucas, chair of the Board of Commissioners faces the camera and the interviewing reporter stands with his back to the camera. Lucas also emphasizes that the alleged rape is not the cause of African American demands, although it "may have been the triggering mechanism." Lucas confirms the city's intention to continue to improve communication between African American and white residents. In response to the reporter's question regarding frustrations with conditions in Rome, Lucas affirms the validity of the African American community's request for an African American member of the housing authority and states the city's intention to appoint one.
Finally, Hardy again speaks to the reporter, emphasizing the frustrations of African Americans in Rome, by quoting the Langston Hughes poem, "A Dream Deferred." The first part of the clip ends with an African American man and woman speaking outside, although their comments are not recorded.
During the b-roll portion of the clip, the camera focuses on a bowling alley and the entrance to a building before showing a white man picking through some burnt debris. Next, two white people each hold a bottle in their hands, demonstrating the construction of a Molotov cocktail. Finally, a police car drives down a downtown street and an American flag waves above the street.
The arrest of the eight African American men for the alleged rape of the seventeen-year-old white girl increased the visibility of racial unrest in Rome. Several buildings, including schools and white businesses, were bombed or burned; back in the community, leading city officials imposed a curfew for several days in September. African American leaders in Rome worked with the Board of Commissioners, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Board of Education in Rome, seeking to resolve grievances in the African American community. Business leaders took steps to increase employment opportunities, and students at both East and West Rome High Schools voted to include African American cheerleaders on the football and basketball cheerleading teams.
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 Ben Lucas, Board of Commissioners chair and an African American man discussing African American grievances in Rome, Georgia, 1971 September 2, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1760, 25:44/26:43, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.