Monday, April 7, 2008

Arrested with Dr. King - early 1960s

My mother has told me the story about her arrest with Dr. King before, but no matter how many times I hear it - I am still amazed. How many times can we as children say that we are proud of our mother getting arrested?

During the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King made his way down to Albany on a few occasions. The police chief at the time (Chief Pritchett) saw how the movement was being played out on television, and he did not want Albany to be shown in the same light. He did his job, but he made sure that the police were not brutal to the marchers. I believe that I read somewhere that he even read Dr. King’s book, but I’m not sure of that.

This particular march began at one of the churches downtown. Dr. King told everyone gathered there “if they crossed Oglethorpe they would be arrested.” Oglethorpe is one of the main streets here in town. He finished his oratory, and they filed out of the church.

The entire group marched from the church through the streets of downtown (Jefferson, Jackson, and Highland streets). They finally reached Oglethorpe. Dr. King turned around and told them again what he said in the church - “if we cross Oglethorpe we will be arrested.” Then he added, “I am going across.” At that point, he got down on one knee and prayed in only the way that Dr. King could pray. When he stood up, they waited for the light to change, and crossed Oglethorpe.
On the other side, there were buses waiting on them and they were filed onto the buses and taken to be booked. Mom said it took them about 15 minutes to be booked, and then the females were loaded on a bus and taken to the adjoining county for lock up while the men stayed in our county. She said they were packed on the bus, some sitting and others standing. The driver drove so fast and turned curves so quick that it was only the grace of God keeping the bus from turning over.

When they were locked up, they were all put in one area. The guards would peep in and stare at them. They gave them food every day, and Mom said that she ate it like it was the best meal in the world because she was so hungry. The group was arrested on Saturday evening and were not released until Thursday.

Before the march, employers around town told everyone that if they were arrested then they would lose their jobs. Mom worked at a candy factory (Bob’s Candies) at the time; she said that when she went to work on Friday, no one said anything and she did not lose her job either.

All of this happened years before I was born, but I can say that I am proud to say that my Mom was a “jailbird.” Dr. King had marched here a number of times, and she never missed one. It is amazing the resiliency that people had during that time; they would stand and take what was dished out and not retaliate. Looking within myself, I wonder if I could have been that strong. I am so glad those before me made life that I know today possible. Then again, you never know how much you can really handle until you are faced with it.

Medgar Evers, Dr. King, Andrew Young and many others have withstood so much, and taken so much. We, as America, are further than where we were during the movement, yet we still have so far to go.

In an interview with Martin Luther King III, he was asked what did he think his father would do today. He gave such a well thought out answer; he said he really didn’t know and all we can do is refer to the words that he left and go from there.

I thought “very well said.”

There are people now that try to copy his style and his tone - they might as well give it up. There was only one, and there will only ever be one - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.