Hosea Williams Gets a Little Respect
Hosea Williams, a chemist by education and a civil rights hellraiser by trade has been shown a little love by the City of Atlanta. Williams transitioned 18 years ago. He was larger than life. Today, he was honored with a mural on the side of a parking garage on Auburn Avenue, a half mile from his old office at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
As other stalwarts in the civil rights movement received accolades for their contributions to the movement, Williams name was always missing.
His family even objected to the manner in which Hosea was depicted in the famous movie Selma. Instead of highlighting the pivotal role Hosea played in the cat and mouse game with Sheriff Jim Clark during the Selma to Montgomery standoff, the film depicted Williams as more concerned with eating fried chicken than challenging the authority of a southern Sheriff bent on keeping Negroes from walking to Montgomery.
Additionally, history literally air brushed Hosea from a photograph initially taken of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Andrew Young and Rev. Hosea Williams walking to school in 1966 with several kids as they integrated a segregated school system. Subsequent publications of this picture in the 21st century only show King and Young. This was the ultimate insult to the man who Dr. King charged with leading the “Bloody Sunday” march.
Perhaps, history has not been kind to Hosea because those writing the history like to put a spin on the story intimating that the walls of segregation came tumbling down because of mutual love and admiration of the adversaries.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Dr. King was a very methodological general. He had a diverse army of freedom fighters. They possessed a wide array of skills. King masterfully deployed his troops to gain the maximum advantage in the war for civil rights.
Hosea’s role was to enter a community. Then whip up the passion of the local people for change. When he had the community at a feverish pitch, Dr. King would send Andy Young in to put out the fire.
Young, a smooth talker and quick thinker, would present local white leaders with Dr. King’s list of demands. He would then advise the city fathers that they were prepared to put a muzzle on Hosea if a deal could be struck.
This is how civil rights were won for the American Negro. Without the fiery rhetoric from Hosea, Blacks might still be limited in the places they can live, the schools they can attend, and the jobs they get paid to perform.
Since the system does not like to reward or celebrate the “bad Negro,” Williams service to humankind has gone largely unrecognized.
The historical snub of Hosea ended 49 years after the assassination of Dr. King, with the unveiling of a mural rendered by artist Fabian Williams at Studioplex in Atlanta’s famous Fourth Ward. The mural depicts a barefoot Hosea, dressed in his signature overalls, with a halo surrounding his head.
Hosea often marched in a pair of blue denim overalls.
In attendance at the mural unveiling was long time civil rights activists Tyrone Brooks. He met Hosea after he graduated from high school. Hosea was impressed with Brooks and invited him to come to work for SCLC.
Brooks said, “I think this is a good thing. It was a long time coming. I just wish it was in the heart of Peachtree Street, so more people could see it.”
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org