Hosea Williams
265 pages

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265 pages

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The first comprehensive study of one of America's most gifted civil rights activists and political mavericks

When civil rights leader Hosea Lorenzo Williams died in 2000, U.S. Congressman John Lewis said of him, "Hosea Williams must be looked upon as one of the founding fathers of the new America. Through his actions, he helped liberate all of us."

In this first comprehensive biography of Williams, Rolundus Rice demonstrates the truth in Lewis's words and argues that Williams's activism in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was of central importance to the success of the larger civil rights movement. Rice traces Williams's journey from a local activist in Georgia to a national leader and one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s chief lieutenants. He helped plan the Selma-to-Montgomery march and walked shoulder-to-shoulder with Lewis across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on "Bloody Sunday."

Williams played the role of enforcer in SCLC, always ready to deploy what he called his "arsenal of agitation." While his hard-charging tactics may have seemed out of step with the more diplomatic approach of other SCLC leaders, Rice suggests that it was precisely this contrast in styles that made the organization so successful. Rice also follows Williams's career after King's assassination, as Williams moved into local Atlanta politics. While his style made him loved by some and hated by others, readers will come to appreciate the central role that Williams played in the most successful nonviolent revolution in American history.

Andrew Young Jr., former SCLC executive director, U.S. Congressman, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and mayor of Atlanta, provides a foreword.



Publié par
Date de parution 04 janvier 2022
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781643362588
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Hosea Williams
HOSEA Williams
Rolundus R. Rice
2021 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
Manufactured in the United States of America
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/ .
ISBN 978-1-64336-256-4 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-1-64336-257-1 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-64336-258-8 (ebook)
Front cover photograph: Hosea Williams and John Lewis leading marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. Photo by Tom Lankford, Birmingham News , courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, donated by Alabama Media Group.
Ambassador Andrew Young
Little Turner, World War II, and Atlanta
The Defiant Head House Nigger
Savannah s Rebellious Negro Chieftain
King s Kamikaze : St. Augustine and the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Selma and the Voting Rights Act, 1965
SCOPE, SNCC, and Black Power, 1965-1966
Chicago, the Kentucky Derby, and the Poor People s Campaign
The Movement Continues, 1968-1974
Politics, Prosecution, and Persecution, 1975-1984
I m an Opportunist, 1985-2000
Williams seated behind Martin Luther King Jr. as King speaks at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama
Williams addressing a crowd in Eutaw, Alabama
Williams and John Lewis leading marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Williams addressing a crowd in front of Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama, on Turnaround Tuesday.
Williams speaking to an audience at the Maggie Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama
Williams speaking to an audience at St. Paul AME Church in Birmingham, Alabama
Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Bernard Lee, Martin Luther King Jr., and Williams at voter education rally
Williams, Fred Shuttlesworth, and other demonstrators marching to the Jefferson County courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama
Martin Luther King III, Martin Luther King Jr., Yolanda King, and Williams, Gadsden, Alabama
Williams, Bernard Lee, Martin Luther King Jr., and Stokely Carmichael enjoy a moment of levity during the Meredith March
Eva Grace Lemon, Martin Luther King Jr., Aretha Willis
Erecting tent shelter
Willie Ricks, Bernard Lee, Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Andrew Young, and Williams lead march through small Mississippi town
Song leaders Lester Hankerson, J. T. Johnson, and Williams. Birmingham, Alabama
Williams planning Chicago civil rights campaign in 1966
Pallbearers, including Williams, T. Y. Rogers, and James Orange around Martin Luther King Jr. s casket at Southview Cemetery
Jesse Jackson, Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, and Williams at the committal service for Martin Luther King Jr s remains at Southview Cemetery
Hosea Williams and I had a love-hate relationship: I loved him, and he hated me.
That s a joke. I hope it is, at least. I don t believe Hosea actually hated me, but the two of us were at odds throughout the civil rights movement, and we often clashed-which is exactly as Martin Luther King Jr. wanted things to be. The roles he assigned to each of his top advisors suited our personalities and skills, but they guaranteed conflict among the upper ranks of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Hosea was militant, confrontational, and impatient, whereas I was calm, careful, and deliberate. He was an advocate of aggressive, often reckless direct action, whereas I urged caution. Dr. King not only wanted me to be the voice of reason but he also insisted on it. Our leader, who was respected and loved by every one of us, wanted to be able to mediate our disputes and come down somewhere in the middle. It was only in this manner that Hosea s great passion for justice could be moderated, and everyone could be kept as safe as possible under whatever circumstances we faced.
Hosea at times seemed to have a death wish, but Martin most definitely did not-and he was the man with a target on his back.
Dr. King recognized a mad genius when he saw one, and he was wise enough to know we needed one. Or more than one. As it happened, the SCLC had a few. Hosea Williams was crazy like a fox, but James Bevel, another brilliant strategist, was probably clinically insane. Yet, he also had a role to play. That was the power of Dr. King and the nonviolent social movement that changed America in the 1960s-an unlikely team of misfits who came together under the direction of one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century. Without Hosea Williams, some of the most important moments of the civil rights movement would never have happened. Without me, he d have gotten us all killed many times over.
We were both on the front lines, but I was under orders not to get arrested or harmed, which caused me no small amount of embarrassment at the time. Dr. King wanted me to be the one to post bail for everyone else and work behind the scenes with white business leaders and elected officials to broker peaceful solutions. Hosea and some of the others frequently derided me as pulling up the rear.
But I did get beaten once-savagely-and for that, I was always grateful. It made me one of the guys. And guess who I had to thank for the experience?
On June 9, 1964, Dr. King sent me to shut down a grassroots movement in St. Augustine, Florida, because he feared it could endanger passage of the Civil Rights Act, which was being filibustered in the US Senate. Hosea had gotten caught up with the locals, knew their cause to be righteous, and cared more about them than what happened in Washington, DC. As soon as I walked into the church where he had gathered demonstrators for a dangerous, nighttime march, he saw me from the pulpit and announced my arrival. Ladies and gentlemen, here s the Rev. Andrew Young! he shouted. Martin Luther King Jr. has sent Rev. Young here tonight to lead this march!
The reaction was so overwhelming, the enthusiasm was so great, I simply couldn t say no. I reasoned that if I led marchers to the edge of the downtown plaza, where they were able to see the angry mob that included hundreds of robed Klansmen, I could convince them to turn back.
But when we got there, nobody wanted to turn back.
Lives were at stake, and the Civil Rights Act hung in the balance, so I asked the marchers to wait where they were and let me cross the street and speak with a police officer. I was going to ask if we could walk as far as the old slave market, pray, and return immediately to the church.
I never got the chance.
Someone blindsided me-and that s all I remember. It would be decades before I ever saw film footage from news cameras and realized how severely I was kicked around the intersection of King Street and St. George Street. It s quite a sight. When everyone finally was out of harm s way, I slipped behind the church and wept, not in pain but with relief that no one else was hurt that night. I wasn t badly injured, but the responsibility for all those lives was as much stress as I could bear.
Hosea didn t realize what had happened until much later that night. Hotels and motels did not admit Blacks, and the brave folks who opened their small houses to the SCLC during the movement usually had only one bedroom, and only one bed, which they surrendered to as many of us as needed a place to sleep. At the time, nothing about it was funny, but imagine the comedic possibilities of a scene with two people so opposite, having to share the same bed at that particular moment. Hosea and I were the original Odd Couple.
I still cussed him out.
I have no doubt Hosea felt bad, and I believe he worried that I carried a grudge, though that wasn t the case.
The following year, Hosea accused me of getting back at him in a big way.
He had organized a march in Selma, Alabama, to protest for the right to vote-but there was a great deal of confusion over the date it was supposed to take place. On March 7, 1965, both Martin Luther King and Ralph David Abernathy were committed to preach sermons in Atlanta, and they wanted to postpone the demonstration for a week. Hosea was adamant that it should proceed because so many people had turned out and were ready to march. After considerable discussion, Dr. King relented-but he told me not to risk getting into any trouble myself. We expected the participants to get arrested, and Dr. King said he wanted me free to do my job. But this was an SCLC march, and we needed a representative up front.
So, it came down to a coin toss-among me, Hosea, and James Bevel.
Hosea won-or lost, depending on how one looked at it. He would lead the march beside well-known student leader John Lewis, who was not an SCLC member but had shown up wearing a backpack, ready to go to jail. No one anticipated the violence that ensued that day on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
I was at the rear of the line when people started running and stumbling back across the bridge, pursued by troopers on horseback as billows of tear gas filled the sky. It was a melee that changed the course of history and led directly to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Many were seriously injured at the hands of Alabama troopers, and a few were singled out to be killed. John

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