326 Whitney Street
Tel: (912) 432-1698
Fax: (912) 432-2150
The Albany Civil Rights Movement Museum is located in the Old Mt. Zion Church.
The mission of the Mt. Zion Albany Civil Rights Movement Museum is to commemorate the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Albany and southwest Georgia so that it serves as an educational resource for the community, the nation, and the world.
Background to the Movement
The protests organized by the Albany Civil Rights Movement were an important chapter not only in the history of Albany but also in the national civil rights movement. News of the protests in Albany inspired similar protests in other southwest Georgia communities, including Americus, Lee County, Terrell County, Moultrie, Cordele, Thomasville, and Baker County. They also helped to inspire movements in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana, and Florida.
At the time the movement started in the late 1950s, it was not at all clear that such defiance would eventually produce positive change. In fact, the protests revealed how deeply ingrained segregation was. It was one thing to force authorities to remove the "White Only" signs on public bathrooms and bus seats. It was quite another to level the playing field in employment, education, politics, and racial attitudes. Those struggles continue even today.
The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was not the first attempt to fight racism and segregation. There were protests and sometimes riots in both southern and northern communities in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Before the Civil War, slaves rebelled individually and in groups almost from the time the first slaves were captured and brought to America. Most of these rebellions were put down by slaveowners using guns and whips and jail cells. Many of the rebels were killed on the spot or hanged in public. Slaveowners kept bloodhounds to track down slaves who tried to escape. Their local and state government representatives passed laws that strictly forbade any activity directed against the system of slavery. Local police and slave patrollers enforced these laws.
Just as the slaveowners used police to maintain slavery before the Civil War, segregationists used police to maintain segregation and racism after the Civil War. Many of the protests during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s were directed at the police because of their role in enforcing segregation.
The story of the Movement in Albany and hundreds of other communities in the South is a story of "ordinary people in extraordinary times." Although the history books written about the Movement and the newspaper stories that appeared at the time describe what Movement leaders did, these leaders were successful only because they were supported by hundreds, if not thousands, of people whose names are never mentioned. This is true of any social or political movement--the struggle against British rule in India led by Mohandas Gandhi, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and many others.