Albany, a Study in National Responsibility

Albany, a Study in National Responsibility

Albany, a Study in National Responsibility

Albany, a Study in National Responsibility

Excerpt

The wreckage of Oxford may have caused some Southerners, and more of their fellow-countrymen, to wonder if the South is a region capable of self-government. Oxford was unprecedented in drama and in its threat to constitutional government. It was, however, but the foreordained outcome of the ideology of "massive resistance," taught and applied since 1954 by chieftains of politics from Virginia to Texas. All but a few areas of the South have by now got well from this intellectual and political sickness. But Mississippi would not have acted as it did this autumn if the legislatures, governors, and Congressmen of the other southern states had not acted as they did earlier.

The power of state or local law enforcement was first used to thwart federal authority in Mansfield (Texas) in 1956. This happened again, with immense consequences, in Little Rock in 1957. There can be no confidence, even after Oxford, that there will not be other similar rebellions.

Howard Zinn's report is about another kind of southern response to social and legal change. He writes about Albany, Georgia, where since November 1961 Negroes have worked hard and suffered much to have their humanity recognized. If the country must be prepared for the possibility of other Oxfords, it needs to be prepared for the likelihood -- almost the certainty -- of other Albanys.

Albany has also been a scene of mass disorder. The notorious riots in the South over desegregation have been of several types. Some have been more or less spontaneous, as were, for example, the Chattanooga riots during the sit-ins of 1960; these have not been, however, the deep-wounding variety. Some have been deliberately incited by conspirators, as were the Clinton (Tennessee) riots over school desegregation in 1956; there is at least persuasive evidence that the University of Georgia riot of early 1961 was also the handiwork of an organized few. Of much greater importance have been those mob actions tacitly but knowingly invited by public officials and permitted by the police: the mobs of Anniston, Birmingham, and Montgomery during the 1961 Freedom Ride were of this kind, and so too was that of Oxford. It is worth noting that there has been only one important instance when a white mob formed, knowing that the police would probably be uncooperative, and deliberately challenged the police. That was in Little Rock in 1959, and the mob was easily dispersed.

The disorders of Albany have been basically different. They have been like those of others since early 1960, in Orangeburg (S. C.), Tallahassee (Fla.), McComb (Miss.), Baton Rouge (La.), Lebanon . . .

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