History is on my mind: Georgia just after the Voting Rights Act of 1965
By Henry H. Bucher, Jr., Emeritus Faculty in Humanities, Austin College
Jan 8, 2021
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On January 6, 2021, US journalism performed its duty by honoring the dictum, "If it bleeds, it leads." The group which we can call “Domestic Juvenile Terrorists” violently invaded our Capitol and created chaos creating some deaths and much damage–the details are still being evaluated.

At the same moment, we learned that Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won their Georgia run-off election by defeating their incumbent Republican senators. These two new Democrats in Washington mean that the Senate, House, and the peoples’ White House will be favored by Democrats for at least four more years. The Georgia election results are far more important for our future than the violent, illegal and temporarily damaging actions of the Domestic Juvenile Terrorists. 

The highly contested elections in Georgia cemented a victory for Civil Rights that has a long non-violent history in Georgia. Between 1950 and 1963, the NAACP, SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee), SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference),and many other groups, including progressive  Jewish and Christian efforts, worked tirelessly to legally overcome the vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow in all of the USA. In Georgia, the southern city of Albany was the focus of SNCC’s activities in 1961. Title I of the 1964 Civil Rights Act barred unequal application of state voter registration requirements for federal elections which increased support for groups working for voting rights everywhere—including Albany, Georgia. 

In the summer of 1966, Albany was where many more groups joined in coordinating the registering of Black citizens who wanted to vote. The Southern Students Organizing Committee (SSOC—mostly White), the University Christian Movement,* and some others joined in supporting SCLC and SNCC who had been supporting local black groups, some eager to vote and others refusing, especially if they worked for white businesses or lived in white-owned homes. To many Whites in Albany, all these “outside agitating” groups “were Communists.” Most Whites were polite, even if opposing the voting project. The police were under orders to protect outside groups and they did. Many of the meetings were held in churches including some hymn-singing –“What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” 

Given this reality sixty years ago, the major headline for our national news on January 6, 2021 is the Georgia run-off elections and the democratic progress in much of the USA. From the little we know about the Domestic Juvenile Terrorist attacks in DC, very few were from the south, and from TV news videos, black citizens involved were on the police forces.  Meanwhile, back in the Intensive Care Units of most major hospitals in the USA, the daily increase in COVID-19 cases remains the continuing national news headline! This pandemic will continue to dominate all our lives and the headlines long after the Domestic Juvenile Terrorists are subdued, and face equal justice under law.

  •  The University Christian Movement was the interfaith USA member of the World Student Christian Federation and worked with university students active in some major Protestant denominations: Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodists, Lutheran, and more. I was representing the UCM as Field Staff Director in the summer of 1966.