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Alabama - Selma: Albert Turner Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Albert Turner in Marion, Alabama. His family was all from the area. Dent mentions his familiarity with the area from his friendship with Andrew and Jean Young. They discuss Lincoln School and the unusual level of culture and education in the area. Lincoln School was founded by a member of the Union army following the Civil War. Alabama State University originated at Lincoln School, which was an A.M.A. school. The structure of the school still exists, and the auditorium has been declared a historic landmark. Turner talks about the history of Marion and the history of Black suppression in the area following Reconstruction. He attended Alabama A&M in Huntsville. He describes attempting to vote when he returned in 1962. Even with his B.S. degree, he was told he could not pass the test he was given. He started organizing voter registration at this time. His father had organized the first rural bus system to transport students to the city to attend Lincoln. It began as both elementary and high school, but later dropped the elementary component. Turner learned independence from his family. He talks about the Selma Movement and the work that had been done prior to Martin Luther King Jr.'s involvement. Turner became the State Director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC]. As part of the Perry County Civic League from 1962-1965, they already had lawsuits against the county. The White people had to vouch for you on the system. They had three hundred different tests from which the voter would choose randomly by opening a book. Part of the work Turner did was to teach the information on the tests. The results were purely subjective. They discuss Jean and Andrew Young, whom Turner knows well. Turner has eleven siblings, all of whom went to college. Dent tells Turner about his conversations with Young regarding the events of the first Selma march, which ended in violence. Turner gives his recollections of the events following the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson leading to the march. People had come from distances to walk and were "fired up." Turner thought it would kill the movement if they had stopped the march. Over half the people in the march that Sunday were from Marion. Although Turner had expected a reaction from the White community to the voter registration activities, he had not expected the reaction to be as extreme as it was. They were harassed by the sheriff's department, so they met outside the city at the Sportsman Club in Newbern, which was a Black independent community. Turner was not surprised by what happened on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that Sunday. He was emotionally prepared, but the leaders of the march did not know whether or not they would return when they set out. The crowd did not know what was going to happen. Turner was gassed, but he was not beaten. He had played football, so he took a three-point stance when anyone came too close to him and knocked them over. The women and children stayed in the center of the group, surrounded by the men in a circle at the crest of the bridge. The troopers teargassed the crowd. Hosea Williams was in charge of organizing the aftermath. The crowd was chased on foot through the projects back to the church with whips. Turner sees no real difference in the racial situation between Selma and Marion.
Civil rights demonstrations
Dent, Thomas C.
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 151, Item 12, 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.