The First March
This photo shows white supremacists surrounding and following the marchers and their bus on the morning of January 17. The banner on the left of the photo says "Abolish the King Holiday," which had only been established a year prior.
Copyright Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University. Libraries, Atlanta Journal Constitution Photographic Archives.
Racial terrorist J.B. Stoner headlined the white supremacists' counter-event on the morning on January 17. Stoner, who never apologized for his views or crimes, had just been paroled for his role in bombing a Black church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center, Southline Press, Inc. Photographs.
While Williams and Carter were organizing the march, a group of white supremacists in Cumming created the Forsyth County Defense League (FCDL) and scheduled a “White Power Rally” for the day of the march. The FCDL, which was later linked to the KKK, posted signs and flyers around town to advertise the event, which featured convicted church bomber J. B. Stoner as a speaker.
On the morning of January 17, Williams, Carter, and between fifty and one hundred marchers gathered near the corner of Georgia 9 and Bethelview Road. Shortly after they started their three-mile trek toward town, the white supremacists attacked them with rocks, bottles, and bricks. Forsyth County sheriff Wesley Walraven and state law enforcement officers quickly realized they could not control the situation and encouraged the marchers to re-board the bus and abandon the remaining portion of the walk.
Photos of the shocking violence made the front pages of newspapers nationwide. Determined to persevere, Williams reached out to old civil rights colleagues and began planning a second march for the following weekend. Thanks to Coretta Scott King and other supporters, the response was overwhelming.