Interview with Dr. William Anderson


Dr. William G. Anderson:

Well, when the Albany Movement was organized, we did draft a purpose for the organization. The purpose was to seek a means of desegregating the city of Albany. We drafted the petition to present to the City Council of Albany. And I took that petition to the City Council, and I went to the City Council meeting to get a response to our petition. The Council conducted its business as usual on that evening, and Mayor Asa Kelly, who chaired the Council announced that the meeting was about to adjourn, whereupon I asked for a hearing. And this was granted. And I asked about our petition. I said, we have petitioned the City Council to set into place some mechanism whereby we can seek means of desegregating the City of Albany. And we gave all the reasons why we felt as though this should be done. Well, Mayor Kelly said that we discussed this in the executive session of the City Council and we determined that there is no common ground for discussion, and did not deem it appropriate to have it as an agenda item. Adjourned. Before I left I said it is regrettable. This is not in the best interest of Albany. And I left. The next day the local newspaper, The Albany Herald, edited by our friend Mr. Gray, who may at that time have been State Democratic Chairman, had on the front page of his newspaper that the Albany Movement demands complete and total desegregation of the City of Albany. And it went on to relate the event of my attending the City Council meeting and storming out, he described it as storming out of the meeting, indicating that this was not in the best interest of Albany. And I might add that he put in that same article, not only my address, but my phone number with my compete name. This led to a series of events that just coincided with the arrival of the Freedom Riders. They came into Albany on a Sunday. I can remember very vividly. Needless to say they were arrested as they got off the train. And that night we had a meeting of the Albany Movement at which time we decided that we would not let these people stay in jail alone, we would fill up the jails. That next morning, at breakfast, I was advising my wife and my kids that their father and husband would very likely wind up in jail before the week was out, because the Albany Movement had decided that the best way to respond to first ignoring the petition of the Albany Movement, and secondly to arresting these Freedom Riders, the most appropriate response would be mass demonstrations. And I said, "I'll probably wind up in jail, and I want you kids to understand why this is being done." You have to understand that going to jail was probably one of the most feared things in rural Georgia. There were many blacks who were arrested in small towns in Georgia never to be heard from again. We have every reason to believe many of these were lynched. So going to jail was no small thing.** It was nothing to be taken lightly by any black. Because there were all kinds of horror stories of atrocities that had been suffered by blacks in jails. Well, as it turned out we had going at the same time sit-ins at the local bus station. My wife happened to be one of those participants at the bus station. But on this Monday morning following the arrests on Sunday, we met at a church, and we started a march downtown, and we were going to walk around the courthouse and go back to the church. We made it around the first time and I was at the head of the line with my wife. But after we made it around the first time not getting arrested I went on to my office, but the group went around a second time to make this impression that we are united behind these people that you have unjustly arrested. But the second time around, they were arrested. And some 700 were arrested before they stopped.