Long before “bloody Sunday” in Selma, Georgia had a much bloodier civil rights event – the Camilla Massacre. On this day in 1868, during Reconstruction, a political rally in Mitchell County resulted in about a dozen freedmen being killed and 30 other wounded. Georgia had just been readmitted to the Union, but blacks and whites remained deeply divided.
In early September, white Democrats in the Georgia legislature expelled all 28 African-American members. In response, one of those, Philip Joiner from southwest Georgia, led several hundred freedmen on a March from Albany to Camilla for a Republican rally. As the marchers entered the courthouse square, the sheriff and other local whites opened fire.
The violence sent a clear message. Many black voters stayed home for the presidential election two months later. But the Camilla Massacre national headlines and prompted Congress to return to Georgia to military occupation.
Finally, in 1998, 130 years later, the massacre was officially acknowledged when Camilla publicly commemorated the victims of the bloody events of September 19, 1868, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.