Jump to navigation
Georgia - Albany: A.C. Searles Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews A.C. Searles in Albany, Georgia. They discuss someone who is working on a doctoral these about the Albany Movement. Dent explains his project, which encompasses the changes, or lack of changes, that have occurred since the civil rights movement. Searles talks about some of the unsung heroes of the Albany Movement, including Fred Brown. He was active in the Movement, but ultimately suffered from a breakdown. Searles talks about Brown's arrest and violence on the behalf of Police Chief Laurie Pritchett. Those who were arrested lost their jobs and conditions in the jail were poor. The people who went to jail and were not leaders truly suffered. Searles talks about the incident at Albany State College. A small group of students waited in the small "Colored" waiting area at the Trailways bus station to attend a mass meeting. They decided they would go to the restaurant to be served, which was "Whites only." They were suspended and then expelled by Albany State's president. Searles visited President William Dennis in his office the next day, as the editor of a Black newspaper, The Albany Southwest Georgian, but Dennis refused to speak with him. The two were friends and were both members of the Criterion Club, though they attended different churches. Searles attends Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Searles was told that he would be arrested for trespassing if he came back to campus. He immediately went back, looking for a story. He was not arrested, but Dennis left the campus. Searles gives his impressions of Dennis, whom he commented was "the blackest white man I ever met." Dent contrasts Dennis' approach to the situation with that of Warmouth T. Gibb, who said that he did not have any control over was the students at North Carolina A&T did when they were not on his campus. Searles comments that the Black community has been treated as "third or fourth class citizens" in Georgia. Dennis never apologized, but Searles thinks the worry caused him an early death. He died about two years after the incident. Searles does not consider himself a radical. He talks about trying to go to jail with Martin Luther King, Jr. He was told he was needed on the outside as a reporter to tell the rest of the nation what was happening. All of Albany was angry with Dennis. He went back to his church, Hines Memorial AME Church, where he was president of the small congregation. The Criterion Club sympathized with Dennis, and most wanted nothing to do with the Albany Movement. He observes the Black community is "forgiving and forgetting as a race." They discuss Joseph W. Holley and his book You Can't Build a Chimney From the Top. Searles talks about his education. In 1938, there was no state supported institution that granted a bachelor's degree, so he attended Tennessee State. He returned to Albany in 1940, following a tornado in the area. He was in Tennessee at the time of the tornado, and called the Nashville newspaper office to see if they had a list of casualties, unable to get in touch with anyone in Albany. He was told there was not list, but that "most of them were nothing but niggers." In 1942, Searles became involved in the newspaper, which was owned by the King family. He had studied journalism, and had always wanted to be a journalist and a lawyer to bring freedom to his people. He had hoped to study under Z. Alexander Looby, but returned to Albany instead of getting his law degree. He talks about writing the story of Bobby Hall's murder in Newton, Georgia in Baker County in 1942. He was killed by Sheriff Screws with his own gun when he tried to retrieve it from the sheriff's office after it was confiscated on the suspicion that it was stolen. He was then dragged behind a truck. Searles photographed the body when it was brought to the funeral home in Albany. He had to send the film to Jacksonville to be developed because none of the White photographers in town would do it. The pictures were published in the Atlanta Daily World with a description he had written of the funeral, though he did not attend. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation came to his office and demanded the pictures, but they had already been sent to Atlanta. They case went to federal court, but the jurors were all from Baker County. They discuss the oppressive environments of Baker and Dawson Counties.
Civil rights demonstration
Baker County (Ga.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 150, Item 11, Side 1, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws.