A Reflection on MLK, Race, and my hometown of Albany, Georgia
From the Fall of 1961 through the Summer of 1962, my hometown was at the leading edge of the campaign for civil rights. A coalition known as the Albany Movement began to agitate for an end to segregation in the city. Marches and mass arrests followed. MLK came to town and ended up in jail for a short time. I understand that, though King thought his time in Albany ultimately a defeat, he learned lessons there that were later used, successfully, in Selma and Birmingham.
My parents moved to Albany in the early Seventies --about a decade after these events. Incredibly, I never learned this history -- except for vague stories about troubles in the Sixties -- until I was an adult. When I asked my mom why people never spoke of it, she said that, at the time of these events and for years later, "white people were just plain scared." In the ensuing decades that fear (and lingering intolerance) turned into annoyance and disgust, as Blacks took over the leadership of the city and managed it in a way that Whites didn't approve. Whites have now mostly migrated out of town, to the county just north.
Still, when I visit home, my sense is that nowadays the two communities rub along generally well. And overt racism is mostly a thing of the past. What gets most Whites' hackles up are their perceptions about the Black community in terms of welfare dependency, crime, drugs, and dissolution of the family. The Black community no doubt does have its problems. However, it would do Whites a world of good to understand the history of slavery and segregation in the South. An appreciation of that history (not to mention repentance for "the sins of the fathers") would improve understanding, tolerance, and love.
(For more information on the Albany Movement, see the entries in Wikipedia and in the New Georgia Encyclopedia (georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/albany-movement). There's also now an Albany Civil Rights Institute (albanycivilrightsinstitute.org))
Picture of MLK Being Arrested in the Albany Movement