In this WSB newsfilm clip from Rome, Georgia, September 15, 1971, African Americans watch a burning building from across the street; African American students march on the sidewalks; and Ben Lucas, chair of the Board of Commissioners, speaks from the police building.
The clip is divided into two parts. The first part begins with the remains of a building burning. African Americans standing nearby watch the burning building. Next, African American students from East Rome High School enthusiastically march on the sidewalks of Rome; a police car and a fire truck drive parallel to the students. Three hundred African American students from East Rome High School participated in a walk-out and demonstration asking for greater representation in student affairs, particularly in extracurricular activities. White policemen stand outside of the Rome Police department, while inside, two white men, including Ben Lucas, chair of the Board of Commissioners, sit at a desk and speak to a press conference. Lucas reports that the city has met for nearly two weeks with African Americans, recognizes the need for improved communication, and distills the original list of eleven grievances down to three. The city has agreed to establish a biracial committee, to place African Americans on the city's Urban Renewal and Zoning boards, and to hire more black police and fire officers. Lucas reports that he has heard reports of police brutality, although he has not seen any, and that each complaint is investigated.
The B-roll portion of the clip begins with two white policemen standing outside. In the background someone laughs. Through prison bars, a prisoner wearing a white tank top and wearing a gold cross is seen. Someone suggests that the reporter ask the guard if it was necessary to put "fourteen men in one cell without any ventilation."
During the racial unrest of the 1960s, Rome made a relatively smooth transition to desegregation, choosing to learn from the experiences of other communities in Georgia and the South. Racial tensions increased after the alleged August 15, 1971 rape of a seventeen-year-old white girl by eight African American males, ages fourteen to twenty-three. Community buildings, including schools and several white businesses, were bombed or burned over the course of several weeks, leading the city to impose a curfew for a week in September 1971. Also during this time, members of the African American community in Rome brought their concerns to city leaders, meeting several times with the Rome Board of Commissioners, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Board of Education. 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 a civil rights demonstration as well as a press conference with Ben Lucas, chair of the Board of Commissioners, in Rome, Georgia, 1971 September 15, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1764, 26:48/28:14, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.