Sunday, December 10, 2017
News Roundup

Looking Back: Civil rights protestors take back Forsyth County (January 25, 1987)

This story appeared in the pages of the St. Petersburg Times on January 25, 1987. What follows is the text of the original story, interspersed with photos of the event taken by Times staff photographer Joe Walles.

Civil rights march draws up to 20,000 in Georgia

By Larry King

Times Staff Writer

CUMMING, Ga. - For one poignant day, an all-white Georgia county was integrated Saturday as never before. About 15,000 to 20,000 civil rights marchers, many of them black, marched to the courthouse square of Forsyth County, where no blacks have lived for 75 years.

TIMES | Joe Walles

There they were taunted by an angry, racist crowd of whites who waved Confederate flags and yelled obscenities. It took 2,300 riot-equipped national Guard troops and police officers to protect the marchers.

"N-----s go home," the racists chanted, "N-----s go home." They made obscene gestures. Marchers responded with peace signs, clenched fists and friendly waves.

TIMES | Joe Walles

Despite the passions at hand, police reported no injuries or serious violent acts. There were, however, about 55 arrests on charges ranging from inciting to riot to weapons possession.

Those who were arrested included at least four Ku Klux Klan members and David Duke, leader of the National Association for the Advancement of White People.

"When you consider the size of the crowd, this was a pretty peaceful march," said Harry Heath, a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Joe Frank Harris. "Succinctly, today's event got everybody's attention."

TIMES | Joe Walles

TIMES | Joe Walles

The marchers walked in defiance of Forsyth County's longstanding image as a whites-only community. Vigilantes drove black residents from here in 1912 after the rape and murder of a white woman and lynched one of the three black men accused of the crime. No blacks have lived in Forsyth since then.

The march was also held to defy racists who disrupted a much smaller demonstration last weekend with rock-and-bottle throwing. The disruption became national news, resulting in the huge turnout Saturday.

TIMES | Joe Walles

Coretta Scott King and Hosea Williams march towards the Forsyth County courthouse.

"We've come back to Forsyth County today to prove that truth crushed to earth shall rise again," said black Atlanta City Council member Hosea Williams, a veteran civil rights activist who helped organize the march. "Please understand, Forsyth County. Before we'll be your slaves, we'd rather be buried in our graves and go home to our God and be free."

TIMES | Larry Alspaugh

Comedian-activist Dick Gregory speaks to the assembled crowd.

The 2,000 or so counter demonstrators appeared only too willing to accommodate Williams' wish, but the huge security force contained them in roped-off areas. When the marchers arrived in Cumming, officers and National Guard troops formed a human wall to separate the factions.

Marchers came from as far away as Boston and San Francisco. More than 150 buses and countless taxis delivered thousands of marchers from Atlanta, about 40 miles south of Cumming.

Among the marchers were former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, a Colorado Democrat, and Sens. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and Wyche Fowler, D.-Ga; Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young; NAACP President Benjamin Hooks; Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Joseph Lowery; comedian-activist Dick Gregory; several Georgia state legislators, and several Forsyth County civic leaders.

Most of them spoke at a mass rally behind the courthouse after the two-mile march.

"When I look out at the audience, it's such a beautiful, beautiful sight," Mrs. King said. "You are black and white and colors in between, and of all religious persuasions. This is a reflection of Dr. King's dream."

Fowler said that the march "again reaffirms that in the state of Georgia, the color of a man's skin will make no more difference than the color of his eyes. We will work together to eliminate the prejudice that still lodges in the hearts of a very few."

Lowery lead the crowd in a boisterous cheer. "What do we want?" he yelled.

"Freedom!" the marchers shouted back.

Lowery: "When do we want it?"

Marchers: "Now!"

"And that's what we are saying to Forsyth County," Lowery said.

The afternoon march began in cold, sunny weather after a three-hour delay caused by traffic snarls. From a shopping center south of Cumming, the processions snaked two miles down a winding, two-lane blacktop road that eventually widened into the heart of Cumming.

At least half of the marchers were white. Many came with young children in tow, expecting no violence.

TIMES | Joe Walles

The racists brought children, too.

"My son is white," one of them yelled at the marchers, hoisting a small child in the air. "And he's gonna stay that way."

TIMES | Joe Walles

TIMES | Joe Walles

TIMES | Joe Walles

Fortunately, there was enough security to handle the larger crowd, and apparently it was needed.

Three hours before the march, three men and a woman were arrested for possession of undisclosed weapons. Shortly afterward, two more men were arrested near a Kentucky Fried Chicken store, carrying fireworks and bows and arrows. A half hour after that, four Klansmen were arrested on weapons charges.

Authorities received a bomb threat at the courthouse at 12:30 p.m. The threat proved to be false, but FBI agents managed to trace the call and arrested a man from a nearby county.

The only violence directed at the march came when a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent was struck on his helmet with a bottle. Officers never determined who threw it.

When the courthouse rally ended, marchers returned to their cars and buses by retracing the same route as before. Their adversaries hooted and shook their fists as the procession left.

"So long, n-----s," one young man yelled after them. "You'll see who's still left in this town here tonight."

TIMES | Joe Walles

TIMES | Joe Walles

TIMES | Joe Walles

TIMES | Joe Walles

TIMES | Joe Walles

TIMES | Joe Walles

TIMES | Joe Walles

Times image archive.

Jeremy King

Twitter: @TBTimesArchive

e-mail: jking@tampabay.com

Comments
The Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide To Lions-Buccaneers

The Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide To Lions-Buccaneers

A 9-7 record should be something to celebrate.That will earn some teams a playoff spot.Maybe, though, it’s not the achievement we think it is.Maybe it’s a curse.Take, for instance, the Bucs and Lions, who play Sunday at Raymond James Stad...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Updated game story: Lightning’s Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

Updated game story: Lightning’s Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

TAMPA — His coach says he plays every game as if he doesn’t play his best, he’s going to be sent down. That is not the case with Brayden Point, but who doesn’t want that kind of effort from a second-year player who has more than established himself i...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK — Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, completing a climb from walk-on to one of the most accomplished players in the history of college football. Mayfield won a lopsided vote to become the sixth Okla...
Updated: 9 hours ago
A mysterious boom baffles Tampa Bay, and official sources shrug

A mysterious boom baffles Tampa Bay, and official sources shrug

Whatever it was, the boom shook walls and swayed chandeliers."It sounded like a plane had crashed," said Fred Krauer Jr., 43. The noise rattled every room in his home north of State Road 52 and west of Hicks Road. "I felt it in my feet in the shower....
Updated: 9 hours ago
Chiozza, Gators stop Cincy, end 3-game skid

Chiozza, Gators stop Cincy, end 3-game skid

NEWARK, N.J. — Chris Chiozza scored the final six points of the game and No. 5 Florida snapped a three-game losing streak with a 66-60 victory over No. 17 Cincinnati on Saturday in the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center. Chiozza p...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Brayden Point scores in OT to give Lightning win over Jets

TAMPA — The Jets saw Saturday’s game against the Lightning as a benchmark game, a way to measure themselves against the NHL’s top team. The Lightning had circled the game, the last of a four-game home stand."It’s going to be a big test for us," Light...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Attitude adjusted, Cory Conacher focused on sticking with Lightning

Attitude adjusted, Cory Conacher focused on sticking with Lightning

TAMPA — When Cory Conacher was called up a little over a week ago, it looked like it might be for just a one-game cameo.Center Cedric Paquette had been suspended for one game for boarding, and the Lightning, otherwise healthy up front, needed a fill-...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Mysterious ‘white plague’ threatens South Florida coral reefs

Associated PressMIAMI — A mysterious epidemic continues to sweep South Florida’s reefs, transforming corals into lifeless skeletons and threatening undersea structures that support tourism, provide hurricane protection and serve as homes to a vast ra...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Democrats fighting math and history in Alabama

Democrats fighting math and history in Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Renegade Republican Roy Moore may be plagued by scandal, but it will take more than that to convince the voters of 44th Place North to show up for Democrat Doug Jones on Tuesday. In a state where Democrats are used to losing, the m...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Romano: Fighting the man to the tune of $16 million

This is a story of lawsuits and precedents. Developers and politicians. It’s a story of one staggering court award, and one stupefying reversal.But we’re going to ignore all of that for a moment, and instead go to what the story is really about.To a ...
Published: 12/09/17