ALBANY, GA (WALB) - One woman who helped shape the Albany Civil Rights Movement was Evelyn Toney.
She was the first woman arrested in Albany during that time – sparking Freedom marches in the city.
“The feelings I had, thank God I’ve never felt that feeling no more since then,” Evelyn Toney said.
As a breast cancer survivor and civil rights soldier, Toney, is a key individual in the history of the civil rights movement, not just in Albany but the entire country.
At seven years old, she got her first taste of racism at a drugstore when she was getting ice cream with her mom.
“Mother was handing her the dollar. She was acting like she was handing me over the ice cream and when it got almost to my hand she said “tooey” she spit in it. I went to crying,” she said.
Fast forward some 13 years later she didn’t know it, but her life would change forever.
Toney and a group of NAACP members heard the Freedom Riders were coming through Albany—but they never showed because of an apparent layover.
So, they bought bus tickets to Jacksonville, Florida to spread their message of equality.
They headed to the lunch counter to grab a bite to eat before the ride.
“By the time we sit down on the stool Chief Pritchett and his deputies told us we had to get out,” she said.
So, they left and went out back to wait on the bus.
“That was the 22nd of November 1961.”
As they were waiting, they got a rude awakening.
“The next thing we knew Pritchett and his deputies said you all are under arrest, for what? Just come on…they rode us back there and locked us up.”
Three people were arrested at that point and they had another arrest later that evening.
From a segregated lunch counter to an integrated jail, they were arrested for disturbing the peace.
They were later released and finally ate at one of the finest black restaurants in town.
“We were eating the meal that we couldn’t get in jail.”
From then she continued to push for equal rights as the spokesperson for the youth council of the NAACP, even meeting and working across the table from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We would sit around and listen to him talk...You could almost just see the goodness in him.”
Evelyn Toney didn’t let her time behind bars stop her from continuing to fight for equal rights.
Now, she says it’s important to teach the children our history and how far we’ve come.
Because of her strong will, she was even expelled from then Albany State College for her fight for justice.
She was later recognized with an honorary degree from Albany State University.