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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Rita Jackson Samuels, April 30, 1974. Interview A-0077. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Increasing confidence among blacks in small Georgia town

Samuels points to some political activity among black people in her rural hometown of Forsyth, Georgia, including a protest she participated in against an incident of police brutality. Black people there are now confident enough to protest when they feel wronged, she believes.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Rita Jackson Samuels, April 30, 1974. Interview A-0077. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
Well, what's your feel for what's going on in rural Georgia among blacks, politically?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Well, in my hometown, we have a black deputy sheriff, we have three black policemen, we have a black city councilman, we have a bi-racial council, which I assisted them in establishing, that's composed of eight people - four blacks and four whites. There are more blacks who have businesses in Forsyth than ever in the history of Forsyth. They had a demonstration in Forsyth about five months ago which I participated in, and was right up on the front line and reported to the Governor on Monday morning that I had participated in a demonstration. They organized an NAACP chapter here in Forsyth, which I never thought I would see, so I think that . . .
JACK BASS:
What was the demonstration about?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Well, it involved a police brutality case, where a white policeman had slapped a black woman who drove up to a gas station and ordered a dollar's worth of gas, and the attendant gave her two or three dollars worth. And she refused to pay the extra money, and they called the policeman in who, you know . . .I was not there, but I understand that this is what happened. And they got in an argument and then he slapped her and locked her up and left three small children in the car. And it was like three or four hours before they realized that had happened and they wouldn't allow her to make a telephone call. And they staged a demonstration on it and they presented a list of grievances to the mayor, and the policeman was discharged and, you know, things are running smoother now. But I would like to . . . if I . . . you know, I would not mind going back home to live. There was a time when I never thought I wanted to go to Forsyth again.
JACK BASS:
When was the time . . .when did you leave . . .
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Well, the time was when . . .I left in '63. I left in '63. I went to school in South Carolina. I went to Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina. And then my father was living in Atlanta, at that time, and when I first got out of school I came to Atlanta, and I worked at Business College, which was located on Ogburn Avenue. It was a permanent job. And I volunteered and worked with voter registration program. Mr. Jesse Hill - that's when I met Mr. Hill. Started meeting people in Atlanta. And I did some volunteer work at SCLC, so I knew Dr. King. I have to admit I didn't stay there, but I used to work at SCLC. So, you know . . .and I got through. I was in Selma when they had the Selma-Montgomery march, so, you know . . .
JACK BASS:
Where . . .were you on the bridge then?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
I was on the bridge.
JACK BASS:
Did you get hit?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
No. But when you really think about that, I really didn't understand what I was involved in that time. I really didn't.
JACK BASS:
You understood what you were involved in in Forsyth five months ago, didn't you?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Oh, yes.
JACK BASS:
What would have happened if they'd done that same demonstration under similar circumstances in Forsyth ten years ago, twelve years ago?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Well, first of all, they . . .it just would not have happened. People were scared, you know. I mean, I was . . . it was always something about . My grandmother reared me more than my parents, and, you know, I grew up playing with white kids, and I was never afraid of white people. I never was. But there were blacks in Forsyth who were afraid of white people, afraid to speak, afraid to talk back, afraid to do anything. That demonstration never would have taken place in Forsyth ten years ago.