From Too Proud to Bend

The author is nineteen years old and a sophomore at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA.
This is what I’ve been working toward since I joined the movement. I just thought I’d be braver when the time came…. Suddenly we are blocked by a police captain who I later learn from a newspaper account is J. L. Moseley. “Why can’t we cross the street?” (our leader) Charles Black asks. “Look right over my shoulder and you’ll see why,” Moseley replies. Across the street stand thirty state troopers. “We don’t want anything to happen that will reflect on you or on the city,” Moseley continues as he walks beside us. When reporters question him later about diverting our march, he says he did it because “we obviously had a condition today that was tense.”

At this point Charles Black and James Forman, who have been walking with us, step aside and attempt to speak to Colonel Connor, who is head of the State Department for Public Safety, but they are redirected by an Atlanta policeman and sent to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation man who produces an executive order from the governor. Charles and Jim read the order and bring it back to our small group... After reading the order to us, Charles says, “The adjectives used here do not apply to us. Now, who is ready to cross the street?” We all raise our hands, but Captain Moseley blocks us again. Looking at the people across the street where the capitol building is, then past them to the capitol itself, he refers to the politicians inside the building. “All they want to do is get elected…It’s not good for Atlanta for you to go over there.”

“Some of us still want to go across the street,” Charles Black responds. The captain reluctantly escorts us across but warns, “There won’t be a lot of conversation over there like there is over here. You’ll be arrested pretty quickly.” As we begin to move forward, James Forman asks Captain Moseley, “Is this suggesting that we as people can’t walk across the street just because we’re of a different complexion?” Forman’s question is never answered. We cross the street and are blocked by a phalanx of state troopers when we reach the capitol steps. Charles Black climbs the steps while troopers hold the rest of us at bay. At the top of the stairs, he takes out a prepared statement to read and then responds to a barrage of questions from reporters….
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