To What Extent Can the Failure of the Albany Movement be attributed to Police Chief Laurie Pritchett?
In 1961 Albany, Georgia, was a small semi-rural community, in part dependent upon farming. It was completely segregated with "twenty three thousand black residents and thirty three thousand whites." The interplay was non existent and most of the people who lived in Albany had come to accept things as they were.
Historians have debated the cause of this civil rights defeat in Albany with no foregone conclusion. David Garrow in Bearing the Cross emphasizes the key factor being the lack of black unity combined with the lack of federal intervention which was crucial in the civil rights successes in the Freedom Rides and at Little Rock. Whereas Aldon Morris emphasizes the poor planning in the movement and the rivalry between the SNCC and SCLC - particulary their resentment over King's encroachment on their territory - as being the key factor in the defeat at Albany.
However these tensions were as intense in Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham. Finally Howard Zinn in SNCC: The New Abolitionists takes into consideration the role of the Whites. In particular he notes that the residents of Albany had only one source of opinion and facts on civil rights, The Albany Herald, which was militantly segregationist. This was because newspaper editors, like the civic and professional business leaders sought to maintain social peace in their cities. In this essay I am going to take an alternative line of argument and argue that Chief Laurie Pritchett was the chief reason for the failure of the Albany Movement whose ultimate goal was to obtain overall desegregation in Albany.
Pre 1961 Civil rights organizations had been active in Albany. There was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter, headed...