The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
Jim Crow Stories
A National Struggle
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Jim Crow Stories

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Hosea Williams (1926-2000)
Hosea Williams Hosea Williams was born in Attapulgus, Georgia, the son of blind parents. After the death of his mother, Williams was raised by his grandparents. At the age of 13 he was nearly lynched by a white mob after becoming friendly with a local white girl. Williams worked as a cleaner, caretaker and farm worker before joining the United States Army during World War II. He joined the Third Army to Europe and was the only survivor of a 13-man platoon hit by a shell in France. While being taking to hospital the ambulance was also hit and once again he was the only survivor. Williams remained in hospital for 13 months and was permanently disabled and had to walk for the rest of his life with a cane.
"If we gotta fight and die for America, why should we be treated like slaves in America. ..."After returning home from the war, Williams -- in uniform -- was badly beaten by a group of whites after trying to get a drink of water from a whites-only canteen in a segregated bus station in Americas, Georgia. He was so badly injured that the mob believed he was dead. A black undertaker discovered that Williams still had a pulse and took him to a nearby veterans' hospital. Williams later said, "I lay in the hospital for eight weeks wishing that Adolf Hitler had won the war." The beating marked the beginning of his involvement in the Civil Rights movement, and after leaving hospital he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Using the G.I. Bill of Rights, he eventually studied at Morris Brown College and Atlanta University. He worked as a research chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one of the few blacks to hold such a position in the South. Williams had already developed a reputation for militancy, leading demonstrations for integration in the late 1950s. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. invited him to join the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Williams played a major role in the Savannah, Georgia chapter in the early 1960s, before being recruited to the staff of Martin Luther King in 1963.

Media Feature - Listen to the Audio Williams was involved in the Freedom Summer voter registration campaign and was arrested on 124 occasions. With John Lewis, on March 7, 1965 Williams led the Selma to Montgomery march, an event that was televised across the nation. The march peacefully demanded the right of blacks to vote in the state. State troopers used nightsticks and tear gas on unresisting marchers who had knelt down to pray; the event came to be known as "Bloody Sunday." Williams was knocked unconscious and hospitalized. The police brutality so angered President Lyndon Johnson that he sent legislation to Congress that guaranteed blacks the right to vote in any state. Williams was with Dr. King when King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. After becoming a member of the Atlanta City Council, he led a march in Forsyth County, which resulted in a violent confrontation with the Ku Klux Klan in 1987. Two years later, Williams failed in his bid to be elected mayor of Atlanta. He died in 2000.

--Richard Wormser
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For 30 years, he organized holiday dinners that fed as many as 40,000 poor and homeless people in a single day.
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