ALBANY, GA (WALB) - There is history seeping through the streets of Albany.
A road in the Good Life City was well known during the Albany Movement. It’s the path between the former Albany City Hall and the jail — the path dozens walked as they fought to end segregation.
It became known as “Freedom Alley."
Mary Cain-Hooks came to Albany for her normal summer trip in July 1962.
“Really and truly I was just a bystander, like a fan." Cain-Hooks recalled. “I would come home every summer to get my daughter and my mother asked me to go with my sister to try to stop her from marching.”
But little did she know, she’d end up in jail, fighting to end segregation with her younger sister, Muralean Cain-Edwards.
“She was really into the movement here, well I had no idea what she was talking about because I’m coming from Chicago,” Cain-Hooks said.
They both marched in Albany’s Freedom Alley.
Muralean was just 17-years-old at the time and wanted to do something about segregation. She told WALB her mother wouldn’t let her go to jail unless her older sister Mary was there, but by the time Mary got there, Muralean had already started marching.
Freedom Alley is next to where the former Dougherty County Jail used to be. The jail that once housed protesters, is now Albany’s Government Center, and where the Freedom Alley marker now stands.
“I went because it was exciting for me. Because I been taught that if a persons doing someone wrong, you need to really do something to help correct it and and I felt that even at that young age, I would’ve made a difference in trying to help correct it,” Muralean said.
Mary’s daughter and Albany historian Angie Gibson said the protesters were at one of their regular mass meetings at Old Mt Zion Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, but there was an injunction against King so he couldn’t march. So, Samuel B. Wells led the charge instead.
Thousands of people left the meeting and tried to walk from Shiloh Baptist church on Whitney Avenue to the jail downtown.
The march was quickly cut short.
Protesters made it to the corner of Oglethorpe Avenue and Jackson Street when officers told them if they came across Oglethorpe they would be arrested. Protesters fearlessly crossed the street and were taken to the Dougherty County Jail. All of the protesters couldn’t fit in Albany’s jail so they were taken to several holding cells in counties across southwest Georgia.
These two sisters and hundreds more, were taken to a stockade in Leesburg.
The sisters remember their holding spot as a small, unsanitary building. Muralean eventually got out of the stockade because she was sick from low iron. but Mary was stuck in the stockade for an entire month.
According to Gibson, Albany’s police chief Laurie Pritchett studied King’s non-violent methods and to prevent negative attention and keep order. He jailed protesters peacefully, in contrast to other marches that were happening across the nation.
Meanwhile, Mary was in jail and the people made her the leader of everyone that was locked down. Though she eventually got out of jail, the fight for justice continued.
Historians told WALB that Albany’s protest had the largest number of people that were jailed and that thousands of people were put behind bars.
The Freedom Alley marker was dedicated in April 2018.