In 1966 Black residents in Lowndes County, Alabama partnered with SNCC to form the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, an independent political party that was the first to adopt a snarling black panther as its emblem. The Movement had taken off in this rural county in the western Alabama Black Belt a year earlier. Fighting against the confines of white supremacy was nothing new for the county’s Black population. Lowndes-native Catherine Flowers explained, “There’s something in us. It’s in our DNA as it relates to how we resist.”
In the mid-1960s growing cotton was a way of life for most Black residents in the Alabama Black Belt. Arthur Nelson and Charles Mays grew up on farms in Lowndes County and were children when the Movement got started.
White residents of Lowndes County had a long, notorious history of violence against Black residents, who worked in the cotton fields and made up the majority of the population. The county’s nickname was “Bloody Lowndes.” As Lowndes-native Regina Moorer explained, it was “very difficult for Black people to acquire and enjoy many of the freedoms that their white neighbors enjoyed.”
Jo McCall was a child when her father–a prosperous and enterprising store owner–was lynched.
Despite the violence and despite being denied the vote and economic justice, Black residents demanded more. They taught their children to do the same. SNCC staffer and Alabama Black Belt-native Wendell Paris recalled his father, the Negro agricultural demonstration agent for the state of Alabama, “was always fighting against second-class citizenship.”