51 years ago yesterday, I was arrested along with 18 voting rights co-workers in Camden, Alabama. We were incarcerated in the old Camden jail which has since been torn down, not the old old jail which still stands. My 32 hrs. in jail were dramatic and frightening as I record in my book, “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight” www.thisbrightlightofours.com.
Since the book came out, several others have shared their memories of these events. A white seminarian, John Worcester added his memories to my own. Being older and living at Camden Academy rather than out in the rural areas, he had a calmer perspective than I did as an impressionable teen. This is an excerpt from his report detailing our arrest sent to Junius Griffin, Public Relations Director for SCLC, dated July 6, 1965:
“On Monday, June 29, at approximately 12:30 p.m., Mayor F.R. (Reg) Albritton entered Antioch Baptist Church, the office and headquarters of the SCOPE project in this county. He had with him deputies and policemen who were armed. After being asked to show a search warrant, and showing none, they arrested 18* persons (see list below), leaving some in the church who were not arrested at this time. One youth, Don Green, was roughed up by one of the deputies. We have witnesses to this occurrence (I, Maria was one). Those arrested were booked on charges of “possession and distribution of boycott materials.” Within 30 minutes of this arrest, the bail was set at $1000 per person. At about 1;45 p.m. I was allowed to visit the jail – in the colored section – with Mr. Albert Gordon and Mr. James Ephraim. (This sentence is unclear, was James Ephraim in jail or visiting? ) Soon after that visit, bail was arranged for Mr. Gordon and he was released in late afternoon of the same day. It was at this time that Mike Farley was allegedly beaten by the other occupant of the cell – a man who had been there when Farley was jailed. Only a few who were in the Negro section were able to witness this beating. (I, Maria heard it and heard a much worse beating that took place later than evening. Mike called to us for help.)
[Worcester then gives descriptions of the legal disposition, those of us released without further charges “due to insufficient evidence” and those who signed bonds. His list of arrestees:
Adult Leaders: Mr. Albert Gordon and Rev Major Johns (director of Wilcox SCOPE project, SCLC staff)
Student workers: Don Green* ( Worcester mentions him, but forgot to list or count him in the roster of arrestees)
Joyce Brians (my name changed to Maria Gitin in 1970)
Celister Wright (from Coy)
Sherry (Shari) Thurber
Please share your memories of this arrest in the comment section for moderation and posting. Thank you!