Learn more about the Albany Movement through exhibits, historical markers and unforgettable live musical performances in this southwest Georgia city.
Albany, Georgia, may be small town, but it packs in a huge amount of African American history, especially when it comes to civil rights. In 1961-1962, the Albany Movement was the first mass movement to have as its goal the desegration of an entire community. Local leaders called on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to bring national attention to their efforts, and his experiences in Albany later influenced his future actions in Birmingham.
Begin exploring Albany's civil rights history at these seven locations throughout the city.
The Albany Civil Rights Institute
The Albany Civil Rights Institute is the best place to start your tour for an overall look at Albany's part in the civil rights movement. Interactive exhibits show how ordinary people joined in nonviolent protests and boycotts as they fought for voting rights and desegregation of public places.
Here, you'll learn about activists like the Criterion Club, founded in 1947 by African American letter carriers, which became the first black civic organization in Albany to protest segregated practices and helped to form the Albany Movement. The Institute includes a museum, research center and the rehabilitated Old Mount Zion Baptist Church, where crowds gathered to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak.
Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church
Across the street is Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, where the Albany Movement was formed and led to the national civil rights movement. Like Old Mount Zion, Shiloh was a site for mass meetings and drew a crowd of more than 1,500 when Dr. King came to speak. Don't miss the Georgia Historical Society Civil Rights Trail marker at the front of the church, which honors the Albany Movement.
Albany State University
To see where the SNCC Freedom Singers started, visit Albany State University. The historically black university was founded by the son of former slaves to improve conditions for the South's African American population by offering industrial and religious education. In 1962, when the school was still called Albany State College, the Freedom Singers was formed by Bernice Johnson, Charles Neblett, Cordell Reagon and Rutha Harris. During the Albany Movement, the first two protesters arrested, Blanton Hall and Bertha Gober, were also Albany State students. Distinguished alumni of the school include Katherine Clinton, an electronics engineer for NASA, and Alice Coachman, who was the first African American woman to win an Olympic medal for a record-setting high jump in 1948.
Ray Charles Plaza and RiverFront Park
Take a break for a picnic lunch at the Ray Charles Plaza and RiverFront Park, where there is a life-size sculpture of the Albany-born entertainer seated at a baby grand piano on a rotating pedestal. Charles became a friend and financial backer of Dr. King during the civil rights movement and also composed protest songs, such as "Danger Zone" and "You're in for a Big Surprise." After 1963, he refused to play before segregated audiences.
Take a seat on one of the piano key benches and rock to Charles' R&B music played at timed intervals. Then, walk off your meal along the greenway trail or splash around in the Water Play Fountain.
The Bridge House
For a look at more of Albany's history and culture, don’t miss the 12-minute movie, "From the Heart of Southwest Georgia" at the Albany Welcome Center. The center is in the restored 1848 Historic The Bridge House, built by former slave and master bridge builder Horace King.
Albany Civil Rights Movement Memorial
Close out your visit at the Albany Civil Rights Movement Memorial at Charles M. Sherrod Civil Rights Park, located in the Harlem Business District. Charles Sherrod came to Albany in 1961 with SNCC to organize a voter registration drive. The memorial fountain commemorates Albany's pivotal role in the civil rights movement with a timeline of events. The movement in Birmingham was successful because of the lessons Dr. King and other activists learned during the Albany Movement.