We’re Still On The March: A look back to Wrightsville, Georgia 1980
Wrightsville is an anachronism of the most disturbing kind. All the tired marches and all the old songs serve up reminders of hopes still unfulfilled, of how far we have not come – Ron Taylor
As we rise up yet again against the racism, the injustice and the police misconduct that continues to stifle this country let’s revisit the goings on in a small Georgia town in 1980.
On a May night shots rang out in the black part of town. A young black girl was wounded and a white policeman was grazed. By then the citizens of Wrightsville had already begun to push back against the racist behavior of Johnson County Sheriff Roland Attaway. After the shots were fired Attaway and his cronies moved in and arrested upward of 40 people of color, many of whom were held for days without being charged and were unable to speak to an attorney.
Ron Taylor a reporter for the Atlanta Journal, who is quoted above, wrote about the troubles in an article for Southern Changes, titled What’s Wrong With Justice in Wrightsville:
Johnson County Sheriff Roland Attaway keeps two microphones dangling from the roof outside his office in Wrightsville, Georgia, for the purpose of tape recording his critics. The last few months, he has not liked what he has heard. Moreover, the criticism has made it difficult for him to run his county the way he is accustomed to running it. A host of “outside agitators,” liberal lawyers and nosy newsmen have poked fun at his habit of arresting people without charging them with anything.
In the last roundup, following sniper fire in a Black section of that racially troubled town, Attaway managed to nab at least 38 suspects (he never seemed to know just how many himself) and succeeded in getting two leaders of the Black protest there indicted on a host of curious charges that included inciting a riot that apparently his deputies helped start. During the past few months, Blacks and Whites in Wrightsville have scuffled on the courthouse lawn; a little girl, a woman and a policeman have been wounded, and every extremist group in Georgia, left and right, has shown its colors there. The miracle, say those who have watched the painful developments, is that nobody has been killed.
These photos are from a march held on September 20, 1980. The protest was led by Reverend E. J. Wilson and Southern Christian Leadership Conference official John Martin, the two men who had both been indicted.
In 1983 a civil rights suit was filed against Sheriff Roland Attaway and his cohorts. And guess what? An all-white jury found them not guilty.
”I just think it’s a sad day for all black people, for white people and for the South…’This is 1983, but it has shadows of the 1960’s. Every day since the trial began on Jan. 10 we had to look at 12 white faces. Faces of middle-class whites who could not understand the lifelong plight of my clients.” said Donald C. Keenan, chief attorney for the plaintiffs.
When will it end.