SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - When we think of the modern day civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. always comes to mind, but he didn’t do it alone.
Many brave men and women walked side by side with him as he faced deadly, dangerous opposition. On the frontlines were people like former ambassador Andy Young, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Hosea Williams.
Williams became such a key player in the movement and it all started right here in Savannah.
As I walked down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard with historian Dr. Jamal Toure’, he told me about an important conversation that happened right at the corner of Gaston Street with three members of the NAACP: Rev. Hosea Williams, Benjamin Van Clark and Savannah civil rights icon W.W. Law.
“He and Mr. Law agreed to disagree on what should happen on the trend in regards to the movement. So from there Hosea Williams along with Benjamin Van Clark are going to move along with something called the Chatham Crusade for Voters,” said Dr. Toure’.
Both organizations were fighting for equality, but they didn’t agree on how to do it. The NAACP was negotiating quietly behind the scenes while the Chatham Crusade for Voters was taking their fight for civil rights to the streets.
Their more than 25 marches got Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s attention in Atlanta. Then Dr. King started coming to Savannah for marches.
“As I’ve said in the past, that Savannah is made the most disaggregated cities in the deep south,” he said. “They’re now letting the people understand that civil rights is now tied to you. It is your future and the future of your children and your grandchildren. One of the ways to make the change is by voting.”
The Chatham Crusade for Voters became affiliated with Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference civil rights organization.
“They are going to utilize them to catapult the rest of the civil rights movement that we know throughout the America. "
Williams and others left Savannah to fight for civil rights with Dr. King throughout the south.
“All of it stemming from Savannah, Georgia. This was the proving grounds for that, that Dr. King and others began to see. Savannah now is desegregated before any other city in the state of Georgia that’s before the civil rights act. "