Americus Movement

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WSB-TV newsfilm clip of African Americans demonstrating against segregation and reporter Tom Brokaw interviewing mayor T. Griffin Walker in Americus, Georgia, 1965 July 29.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) fieldworkers began organizing with African American community leaders in Americus soon after their arrival in Sumter County in February 1963. The movement encountered stiff opposition from local officials, however, and all but collapsed the following July when four civil rights activists were arrested and charged with sedition in the wake of large scale direct action protests. Although voter registration drives and citizenship campaigns continued over the course of the next two years, demonstrations were suspended until summer 1965, when Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) activists arrived in Americus and protest resumed with renewed vigor. However, the murder of a white twenty-one year old marine recruit in July 1965 provoked a backlash of white violence, dashing hopes for a biracial settlement. Because the 1965 protests received significant media attention throughout the nation, SCLC workers later concluded that the struggle in Americus helped secure passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.