‘Fence of Segregation’ down in Camilla, more action planned
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Now that a fence that separated Blacks from Whites in Oakview Cemetery has been taken down, proponents of a move to eliminate racial inequities in other areas of city government in Camilla, Ga., are poised to take the next step.
Tallahassee civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump is leading the way as representative of a group of Black residents, including mayor Rufus Davis. The mayor, who was elected two years ago, hasn’t been given a key to city hall.
That and obtaining several government documents that Crump called for in a letter to city manager Bennett Adams are among the issues the attorney intend to tackle. Crump said he’s prepared to go to court if he has to.
“Now that we have this fence of segregation destroyed, we have to destroy the invisible fences of segregation that still persist in Camilla, Ga.,” Crump said.
The fence, which had been in place for almost a century, was taken down without much fanfare last week. Although Crump, who had called for a ceremonial removal of the fence wasn’t notified, he made the trip to Camilla in time to celebrate with Davis and others.
Having the fence down is “historic in every way,” said Crump. Earlier Crump issued a statement on the significance of removing the fence.
“For at least 85 years, the African-Americans in Camilla have been trying to get this fence of segregation taken down,” he said. “Finally, today, in the spirit of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the people have prevailed in making sure that this demarcation separating Black people from White people in the city-owned cemetery is no more.”
A month ago, Crump decried the fence at a press conference that he and Davis held at the cemetery. Gwen Thomas, one of the mayor’s supporters, was there telling of her experience with racism in her hometown.
“When I first came to visit the Camilla cemetery, Ms. Gwen Lillian Thomas, a 70-year-old African-American activist, said when she was born in this hometown the fence was already erected,” Crump’s statement said. “She prayed that she would live to see the day this fence would be taken down.
“I am so happy we were able to ensure that she could see this symbol of racism destroyed in her lifetime.”
The government’s decision to remove the fence was applauded by Rev. R.B. Holmes, who also participated in the Dec. 17 press conference. Holmes is president of the Tallahassee chapter of the National Action Network and publisher of the Capital Outlook.
“The city manager and the leaders in Camilla made the moral and right decision to take down that distasteful fence that separated deceased Blacks from Whites,” Holmes said in a statement. “That fence was a vivid reminder of the pain of bigotry, hatred and blatant racism.”
The National Action Network plans to rally in Camilla on Jan. 28.
“We are not finished,” Holmes said. “The mayor needs a key to city hall. Most importantly we are calling upon the city manager to implement a plan to integrate city hall’s staff and police department with more qualified African Americans.”