Interview with Rev. Frederick Reese


Rev. Frederick Reese:

When about 300 uh, teachers who participated in the march arrived at the courthouse, we encountered Jim Clark and his posse lined up across the door of the courthouse. And we marched directly up to Jim Clark and his posse almost rubbing noses and he informed me that I was making a mockery out of his courthouse and I was asked to, to take those teachers back to the school where they came from. And I reminded him that uh that Courthouse did not belong to him, the Courthouse belonged to us also and we were there, citizens to see if the Board of Registrars was in session as we had requested. We had a right to go in the Courthouse and I would not back down from that right. And of course he informed us that if we did not get off those steps he would move us. And of course by the way, I had, before hand asked teachers to come prepared, to bring their face cloth, toothbrush and what have you so that if they were arrested, then uh, by Monday, we would try to have them out uh, to attend school. However, he gave us one minute, at the end of that one minute, he, along with his posse took their billy clubs and knocked us down the steps. I asked that the line would not move unless they were moved. And 6 couples that uh, occupied the steps, then regrouped and I gave the command that we would go back the second time. We went up to Jim Clark again, he gave us another minute and uh at the end of that minute, he knocked us down the steps again. So then I said we would try it a third time and of course, after thinking about my partner who was the incoming President of the, uh, Selma City Teachers Association. He had uh, somewhat big eyes and so forth and he just wanted to know whether or not I really meant what I said during the third time. And I assured him that we were going back a third time. And when uh, getting on the steps again, he gave us another minute about 45 seconds had passed and someone out of the Courthouse came and pulled Jim Clark's coat and took him into uh the Courthouse door. I know exactly what they told him, but I could imagine, he was told not to arrest those teachers as he said he would do if we were not off those steps in that, uh, that minute. And so, he came back out of the courthouse and jabbed us down the steps again, so I saw then that he was not going to arrest us as I really wanted him to do, therefore we asked that the teachers then would regroup and we marched back not to the school but to Brown Chapel Church at which time there was a rally held** commending those teachers for the first time to march for the right to vote in the United States.