On a mid-March night in 1965, a group of Lowndes residents gathered at Frank Haralson’s store to form an organization to coordinate their voter registration efforts. Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery March had focused the nation’s attention the Alabama Black Belt and the denial of voting rights. In the past few weeks many of those in attendance had attempted to register, but white county officials rejected their applications. Lillian McGill, a part-time clerical worker for the Department of Agriculture and mother of three children, was at the meeting. By the night’s end, she was the secretary of the newly-formed Lowndes County Christian Movement for Human Rights (LCCMHR).
SNCC organizers Stokely Carmichael and Bob Mants trailed the march from Selma to Montgomery, using it as an opportunityto connect with Lowndes County residents. They met John Hulett who was LCCMHR’s chairperson. A few days later, they returned with more SNCC staffers and began working alongside LCCMHR to register Black people to vote.
Mass meetings were one of the ways to bring people together, energize them, and spread the word about the Movement. Like Willie Ruth Myrick, Arthur Nelson and Charles Mays attended mass meetings as young people. “It put a lot of pride into our life as … being Black Americans and from that, we kind of started thinking a bit differently,” Nelson recalled.
Mt. Gillard Missionary Baptist Church in White Hall was the first church to open its doors to LCCMHR and SNCC. The brick church, built by two communities of independent Black landowners, provided an anchor for the Movement. Over time, other churches across the county also opened their doors as well, risking their safety and security.