View from porch of 325 Hazard Drive: Background ~ Gibson Hall, Albany State College Circa 1960

Our house was #325 Hazard Drive, one door down from Hazard Laboratory School in Albany, Georgia. During the late 50s and into the 60s when I was growing up there, Hazard Drive was a dichotomous slice of black life, one of the east side communities closest to the Flint River. On the north end of the street both sides were lined with wooden houses, mostly rentals, where working folk raised their families, rented rooms to the college students and mostly kept their noses out of the business of struggling for racial justice. On the south end of the street stood Albany State College (ASC), a future lightening rod for the Albany Civil Rights Movement—where internal unrest was already brewing as students members of the NAACP Youth Council stood up against authorities and racism, demanding changes that were not being met by local law enforcement nor the ASC administration.

Enter Charles Sherrod and Cordell Reagon and Charles Jones; at the time all twenty-something field secretaries for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC (pronounced “snick”), a one-year old civil rights organization established on the Shaw University Campus in Raleigh, North Carolina; born out of student-led lunch counter sit-ins. Using youth-led, nonviolent, direct-action tactics, SNCC focused heavily on voter registration, having chosen to work in southwest Georgia because the need was great based on the large numbers of disfranchised blacks not exercising their right to vote. Seems only natural for SNCC to join forces and further mobilize ASC student energy to help accomplish their shared goals, for SNCC knew that the only way to achieve racial equality was to get black voices heard through the polls.

As all of this progressed outside our home, within the government grey walls of 325 Hazard, the Joneses mirrored the polarity of the greater community in our own way. My late sister, Dr. Betty Jean Jones, turned twelve on December 11, 1961. She very much wanted to work in the Movement. I, on the other hand—being only seven—had no clue because our parents sheltered us from the struggle.

That fall I was blissfully starting second grade in Mrs. Pearl Sanders class at Hazard, while Betty, taking the bus to Carver Jr. High across town, wanted to participate in the marches, sit-ins and non-violent protests; to go to jail with others who put their lives on the line. Our parents forbade it. Unlike many other black tweens and teens who joined the Movement, Betty was not one to defy her parents, even though she harbored regrets. How I wish I could talk to her about that now. Betty passed away in January, 1997 in a plane crash at the age of 47.  Would that I could find out what motivated her to want to work in the Movement, and how she processed Silas and Irene Jones’ dominion over her fledgling activism.

When I went back home this past June for the 50th Anniversary of the Albany Movement, I met face-to-face with many who worked in the Movement, and heard first hand many stories of courage and diligence. This left me feeling troubled that my parents chose not to involve our family in that important American event. Later, I shared this with Charles Jones ( no direct relations) and he said, “Sister Jones, they were sheltering you, they wanted to ensure that you would make it to this moment.”  Thanks, Brother Charles, for that insight. I see clearly now that my family’s work is in this story, waiting to go out into the world. This is our contribution.