September 17, 1945 –
Raised in Lee County, Georgia
Charles Wingfield, a high school student attending the Lee County Training School in Lee County Georgia, felt challenged by the Movement as it erupted all around him in Southwest Georgia. And soon discovered strength within himself to stand in the face of great danger and challenge of participating in it. The needs of Black education drove him.
He was an honor student and a strong believer in the power of education. Dismayed by the conditions at his school, Wingfield developed a list of demands for improved classroom, library, and gym equipment. He was subsequently suspended. Wingfield’s classmates were outraged and decided to organize a boycott of the school, urging that he be reinstated and that the principal be dismissed.
It was through young people like Wingfield and the much older Lee County leader Mama Dolly Raines that SNCC began to establish a relationship with the Black community there. SNCC had been organizing 20 miles down the road in Albany, Georgia, and saw the importance of developing voter registration projects in surrounding rural areas. At the time, although Black residents comprised the majority of the population in Lee County, there were fewer than 29 who were registered to vote. “Lamentable” Lee had a long history steeped in anti-Black terrorism, and many feared the threat of violence and economic reprisal that would come with attempting to register.
By the summer of ’62, SNCC’s voter registration project was in full swing in Lee County, and Charlie Wingfield was at the center of it. Walking down hot, dusty roads, he would talk to people and encourage them to attend mass meetings, to go down to the courthouse and register, and to learn more about the voting process. Canvassing was hard, dangerous work, but Wingfield was a stalwart supporter of the Movement. Because of his involvement, Wingfield received death threats, and his home was shot into multiple times.
One night a shot nearly hit his younger sister, and soon after Wingfield and his family moved to Florida. Although he was miles away, his spirit stayed with the movement in Southwest Georgia. In a letter he wrote to the Lee County Movement in January of 1963, Wingfield said, “I write you this letter with tears in my eyes. I know what it’s like to live down there. In that lawless county. I think of you all the times and I wish that I could be there with you to help in the fight far freedom. If I could give my life to free you and get the things that the school needs I would die with a smile on my face.”
“Voting: 1961 United States Commission on Civil Rights Report,” 1961, Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website.
“Revolution in Georgia” radio show hosted by Larry Rubin, 1962, Larry Rubin Papers, John Hope Franklin Research Center, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
“Revolution in Georgia,” 1963, Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website.
Charlie H. Wingfield Jr., “The Lee County Movement: A bid far freedom,” A letter to the people of Lee County, Georgia, January 14, 1963, Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website.
Southwest Georgia Project Report, December 27, 1963, Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website.
Freedom School Lesson on Albany, Georgia, 1964, Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website.
SNCC Press Release, January 18, 1962, Folder 252253-013-0713, SNCC Papers, ProQuest History Vault.
Lee County Voter Registration Project Report, July 1962, Folder 252253-013-0713, SNCC Papers, ProQuest History Vault.