ALBANY, GA - On Thursday, January 27, the Albany Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) will hold its first Monthly Community Night of 2011, entitled, "Back to School/Integration 101." Four of the 31 African American members of the Class of 1967 will discuss their experiences as transfer students from the all-black Monroe High School to Albany High in the fall of their junior year in 1965. The previous spring had seen the graduation of the first six African Americans (all young women) from the previously all-white Albany High School. They had transferred from Monroe High in their senior year. The African Americans in the AHS Class of 1967 were the first to transfer in their junior year and thus spend two years at the predominately white school.
For the African American students at Albany High in 1965-1967, "everyday was a battlefield," remarked Patricia Chatmon Perryman, one of those students who also helped organize this month's ACRI Community Night. According to ACRI Executive Director Lee W. Formwalt, "many white adults in the 1960s resented the civil rights movement, which was really an attack on their white privilege. Their high school children shared some of their attitudes which made it very difficult for African American students who were perceived as outsiders at the historically white school."
Perryman, one of the four ACRI presenters, is the daughter of the late African American businessman and civil rights activist Thomas C. Chatmon, Sr. She grew up in Albany and after graduating AHS, attended Fisk University and graduated from Georgia State University. She has been an activist, actress/model, advocate, and entrepreneur. Joining her on the panel are Grady Caldwell, Mary Jones Wright, and Robert D. Thomas, Jr. Caldwell was born in Albany and went to Albany State College where he graduated in Business Administration. After a long and varied career, he turned to the ministry in 1991 and two years ago became founding pastor of the New Mercy Baptist Church in Griffin. His experiences integrating the AHS football team and his later struggles with chemical dependency play a major role in Bill Lightle's book, Made or Broken, about Albany, integration, and sports in the 1960s and 1970s. Mary Jones Wright grew up in Albany and after graduating from AHS, was one of the first African American women to be hired by Southern Bell Telephone Co. For two years she worked fulltime and attended Albany State College. She retired as an area manager after working with BellSouth Telecommunications for 36 years. She then returned to college and graduated in Business Administration in 2006. Robert D. Thomas, Jr., was the son of Albany civil rights activist Robert D. Thomas, Sr., who was one of the Albany Nine. Robert, Jr., graduated from Albany State College, and was a contract negotiator at Warner Robins Air Force Base. He has managed and owned several businesses and currently owns and operates Thomas Insurance Services in the Macon area.
The January 27th Monthly Community Night will be at 7:30 p.m. at ACRI, 326 Whitney Avenue, Albany. The event is free and open to the public. Following the presentation, Albany author Bill Lightle will be signing copies of his book, Made or Broken: Football & Survival in the Georgia Woods. Part of the proceeds from book sales will go to support ACRI.
Upcoming ACRI Monthly Community Nights include Peggy King Jorde, "The African Burial Ground: What it Took to Preserve an African American Legacy in New York City" (February 24) and Charles and Shirley Sherrod, "Reflections on the Civil Rights Movement in Southwest Georgia" (March 24). The Sherrods' presentation will be an ACRI fundraiser in Old Mt. Zion Church.