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A child was born on January 15, 1926 to a blind, teenage mother. That child was going to become a man by the name of Hosea Williams, a Civil Rights activist and a politician. William’s mother would die giving birth to a daughter, and said daughter along with Hosea, went to live on their grandparents” farm. At 14 Williams had to flee from the farm for befriending a white girl. Williams held small jobs until WWII, where he was in an all-black unit and was severely wounded earning a Purple Heart and a limp for the rest of his life, because of this he spent a year in a European military hospital.
When he returned he got his high school diploma at 23 and later entered Morris Brown College in Atlanta to get a bachelor’s in Chemistry. In the early 50s Williams earned his masters and worked as a research chemist for the U.S Department of Agriculture. It was in 1952 that Williams started his civil rights career by joining the Savannah chapter of the NAACP.
He was inclined to join the NAACP after he was almost beat to death when he drank from a whites-only fountain at a bus station. After joining the NAACP he became vice-president under W.W. Law, Williams lead sit-ins and marches to protest segregations, the usual for higher-ups in civil rights era social groups, and as such Savannah was the first city in Georgia that had desegregated lunch counters. Williams also helped integrate the South’s first passenger train and a public beach on Tybee Island. In the summer of ’61 Williams helped campaign to register voters. Later, in 1963 Williams led the Chatham County Crusades and was jailed for a little more than 2 months, which was the longest of any of the civil rights leaders. Two stores were burned down after the riots that followed him being arrested, and fearing for their city, Mills B. Jane Jr. and several other prominent whites formed a committee that secured his freedom and helped desegregate the community.
Another action that Williams did in ’63 was join the SLCL by request of Martian Luther King Jr. He was one of the people who lead the march that was remembered as Bloody Sunday, as it was filled with police brutality. Which after seeing a broadcast of it on TV the current president forced the voting act through Congress. Through this Williams kept his close friendship with MLK even being at his side when MLK was assassinated in Memphis. In 1979 he was removed by then-president Joseph Lowery, after Lowery thought that Williams wasn’t devoting his full attention to his at-the-time position of national executive director. During his time with the SLCL Williams created the Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless program, which he ran for 3 decades. His daughter now runs the organization.
In 1974 Williams was elected to the state senate, where he worked until 1985. Williams ran for U.S senate and lost, but was elected that same year to the Atlanta City Council, in which he worked 5 years. In 1994 his wife became the first African-American woman to run for state wide office. In 1987 Williams reached national status as he marched in a majority white county to confront the Ku Klux Klan, the march was meant to honor King, as it was on MLK day. The first time they marched they were confronted by 400-500 Klan members and sympathizers, which had broken through police lines to assault the people in the march, the following weekend the march consisted of 20,000 people with some prominent people being in the march, such as Atlanta’s mayor, a Colorado senator and Coretta Scott King, all being escorted by 2,000 national guardsmen. Needless to say that this was the largest protest in the state. When they actually reached the Klan, the Klan was given a list of demands which included, but are not limited to, a bi-racial jury, fair wages, and the returned property to African-Americans that were kicked out by the Klan in 1912. Later Williams filed a class action lawsuit against the Klan, in which the marchers were awarded $950,000, which in 1987, had the same buying power as about 2 million dollars.
On November 17, 2000, Williams, after a 3 year battle with cancer, died. Thousands of mourners filed past his body, dressed in his trademark denim overalls, red shirt, and red sneakers. He is honored by a portrait of him and his wife in the State Capital. Williams was an important figure in the civil rights movement because of his daring to stand against what society thought he should have done, and then after seeing the mistreatment of African-Americans in America, decided that he should do something about it. It wouldn’t kill him as it did King, but it would be the driving force in his political career and the actions that he took while advocating that would elevate him to the same level as Reverend Dr. Martian Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
Hosea Williams makes me collage ready because he achieved a master’s degree in a time and place where he was hated for the color of his skin, where he was more than likely unfairly treated as though he would never make it and that he was lesser than his other classmates. Hosea Williams is a person that anyone can look up to and think that he was a good man, that he did something and accomplished something that would leave its mark on the world longer than his life would allow, and that is something that every man and women wants to achieve. Everyone on this planet wants to do something to make a long lasting impact, and I believe this man is someone who did achieve something greater than himself, as well as inspiring others, such as myself, to do the same.
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