Lucius & Emma Kate Holloway
Lucius Holloway: April 1, 1932 –
Emma Kate Holloway: October 2, 1937 –
Raised in Terrell County, Georgia
As was true in many areas in the Deep South, the federal mandate for civil rights, passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, did not make it to Terrell County, Georgia until local Black citizens forced the issue. That law, among other things, outlawed racial discrimination in public places.
Lucius Holloway was one of those in Terrell County who forced the issue. One afternoon, after work, he went to the county courthouse to vote. But he didn’t go downstairs to the basement where Black voters were expected to cast their ballots. Instead, he went upstairs to vote, even despite the protest of other Black voters at the courthouse. One of them, knowing that county officials were willing to defy civil rights law and fearful, told Holloway caution was needed. “If you go up there, they might try to beat you up … go downstairs to the basement and vote this time, and next time, maybe we all can go upstairs” to vote. Holloway went upstairs anyway. But when he came out of the booth, local whites had blocked off all four exits. Holloway was forced to make a run for it and sprinted all the way home. He acknowledged that he “was terrified that day, but not enough to give up on equality for Black folk in Terrell County.”
Lucius Holloway also knew that the kind of confrontational violence he encountered trying to vote was the gasping last breath of white supremacy.
Lucius Holloway and his family were movement stalwarts in “Terrible Terrell” County, a rural Black Belt county in Southwest Georgia. Born into a sharecropping family in 1932, Holloway “grew up on the farm, the hard way.” The white landowner paid all the bills, and at the end of the year, he took that out of the harvest and then split the rest in half with the sharecropper. However, as Holloway noted, “there was never anything left.”
Holloway joined the army and served as a Platoon Sergeant during the Korean War. When he returned home in the mid-1950s, he married Emma Kate Lewis and began a family that became a pillar of Black activism in Southwest Georgia. After his demobilization, he joined the local NAACP branch and quickly became its vice-president. In those days, the NAACP met secretly, and members even destroyed their membership cards lest whites discover their membership. Holloway, however, “did not like the secrecy.” He became one of the few public voices for Black people in Terrell during the turbulent fifties and sixties.
When SNCC began to expand its Southwest Georgia project to the rural counties surrounding Albany, the Holloways welcomed the youthful activists with open arms and an open home. Although the couple had four children, they still managed to house and feed the SNCC workers coming into the county. SNCC folks “would sleep on the floor, sofa chairs, or anywhere they could find a spot in the house.” Holloway talked with local church leaders and businessmen to make sure SNCC had places to hold mass meetings and voter registration workshops. The support of brave local people like Lucius and Emma Kate Holloway allowed SNCC organizers to dig into counties like Terrell County and organize in rural communities across the Black Belt South.
The Holloways continued their activism all of their lives, fighting for Black political empowerment throughout the sixties and seventies. In 1968, Lucius qualified and ran for the Terrell County Board of Education along with three other Black candidates. In 1975, Emma Kate ran for the Dawson city council but was defeated because the city had at-large elections rather than district elections. Throughout the seventies, the Holloways fought the at-large elections, and by 1979, they won their case when a U.S. district judge ordered the city to reapportion its voting districts.
Charlene Holloway Bishop and Lucius Holloway, The Civil Rights Movement Through the Eyes of Lucius Holloway, Sr. (Pittsburgh, PA: Dorrance Publishing Company, 2008).
Interview with Lucius Holloway Sr. and Emma Kate Holloway by Hasan Kwame Jeffries, March 3, 2013, Civil Rights History Project, Library of Congress.