Expelled Albany State College students reflect on Civil Rights Movement
In 1961 during the Civil Rights Movement, police arrested almost 40 Albany State College students for participating in Civil Rights demonstrations. Almost 50 years later, Albany State University invited those students back to honor them.
"It's about looking back and writing a new chapter in the 21st century for the university and its Civil Rights Heritage," says Dr. Racquel Henry, Civil Rights Movement Historian at ASU.
ASU honored these students for their actions all throughout Homecoming Week with a series of events and will continue to do so during the rest of the academic year.
"I felt rejected, I felt I did the right thing, I always felt that and always will," says 1961-1962 Miss ASU Annette Jones White.
After participating in a protest, White's crown was stripped. During ASU's 2010 Homecoming, they restored her title.
"All of us who were expelled had a basic hurt and a feeling of incompleteness because of what happened and no matter what anybody said, it wasn't as important as having Albany State say we're sorry, you were right and we want you to come back," says White.
ASU honored these students all throughout Homecoming Week. Many say it felt as though it was a healing process.
Henry says it's important to continue discussing the Civil Rights Movement so the memories and stories aren't lost as time goes on.
"At that time they had separate drinking fountains, separate bathrooms, you couldn't go to certain restaurants," says ADICA Chairman Andrew Reid, who was expelled in the 1960s after participating in a Civil Rights march. "And at the same time, Dr. King had started a nationwide movement. We got some of those people to come down here to train us, show us how to organize, how to be non-violent, how to go to jail, which I did."
White says her mother didn't keep her hidden from what was going on â" White was aware all of her life of the segregation and racism.
"By the time I was five I had been refused use of the bathroom in Belk and I had an accident right there. People laughed at me," she says. "I had Santa Clause refuse to talk to me. He reached around me and got all of the white children."
Nearly 20 years later at Albany State College, years of built up resentment moved her to act on her discontentment.
"When I was arrested was in December after the Freedom Riders came down by train testing the ICC ruling and they went in the white side of the train station, and they weren't arrested but when they went outside they were arrested. When that trial came up we went down to protest that and that's when we were arrested," says White.
The expelled students agreed: After what they went through in 1961, it was satisfying to have the students honor them during Homecoming.
"Sometimes things are done and people really don't appreciate what someone else had to go through to get them to where they are today and it's always good to be acknowledged for doing something that changed Albany," says Reid.
Half of a century later, White's dream has finally come full circle.
"It's more than the crowning they did Sunday, it's more than all of the activities, it's the reaction I've gotten from the students and from everybody â" it's just wonderful," says White.
Henry is currently working on a book to document Albany State College's part in the Civil Rights Movement.