ALBANY, GA - Young and old will gather from all parts of the nation and beyond, June 2-4, 2011, to celebrate and commemorate the struggles and successes of the Southwest Georgia Civil Rights Movement, to address the persistence of racism and poverty, and to formulate plans for future action.
Civil Rights Activists, Community Leaders, Educators, Youth, Professionals, and Community people are expected in Albany for three days of thoughtful talks, informative workshops and proactive planning to pass on the legacy of the Movement.
The mass demonstrations and arrests in Albany in 1961 and 1962 helped change the course of American history. They were the first such campaigns in the country, and they inspired similar actions in Birmingham the following year and in small towns across southwest Georgia: Americus, Thomasville, Moultrie, Dawson, and even Newton in "Bad" Baker County. These demonstrations showed the world that thousands of ordinary citizens were willing to risk beating and jailing, or even death, to demand justice.
The presence of Martin Luther King, Jr., who marched and went to jail in Albany, helped to focus the national media on a determined grassroots movement that had been built over decades of advocacy by the NAACP and months of tireless, door-to-door organizing by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Media coverage exposed the segregationists' opposition as violent, repressive and racist and helped to build national pressure for federal action to take down the Jim Crow laws, supported with official violence, that prevented blacks from voting, banned them from public facilities built with their tax money, and for the most part excluded them from all but the lowest-paying jobs.
The 50th anniversary celebration will present the legacy of known and unknown heroes of the Southwest Georgia Movement, such as legendary attorney C.B. King, who influenced a generation of civil rights lawyers, the tireless organizer Rev. Samuel B. Wells, and the trio of Charles Sherrod, Charles Jones and Cordell Reagon, who came to Albany in 1960 as the first SNCC workers to take this student movement beyond college campuses and ignite the movement that would change history.
Conference attendees will have an opportunity to tour historic sites and current development programs; visit the Albany Civil Rights Institute museum, Old Mt. Zion and Shiloh Baptist Churches (sites of mass meetings and Dr. King's sermons); hear veterans of the Movement from several counties in SW Georgia talk about their experiences; and participate in workshops to plan future activities. Student winners of an essay contest will be announced, and their work will be displayed, as will student art work at the Civil Rights Institute.
Much of the program will take place in the HPER Gymnasium Building on the campus of Albany State University. An opening night reception will be held at the Albany Civil Rights Institute at 6 p.m., on Wednesday, June 1, 2011.
The program has been developed to ensure that the lessons of the Movement will benefit current and future generations.