The Civil Rights Movement in Newton County, Georgia

Under construction

Recollections of Forrest Sawyer, Jr.:

1968 saw the first civil rights pickets in Newton County, at Harper's 5 & 10 store on Covington Square. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) affiliate of Newton County was founded in this year.

In the spring of 1970, major Civil Rights protest marches took place in Covington. An economic boycott of white-owned businesses (who refused to allow black patrons to enter stores through the front door) was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). About 35 SCLC staff members were assigned to Newton County during this period.

About 5,000 persons participated in the "Black Easter" march protesting segregation of schools, the hospital, police force and public facilities. During March and April 1970, 15,000 arrests were made of protesters; many civil rights activists are jailed, filling jails in Newton County and surrounding counties. Rev. Hosea Williams paid several visits to Covington during this period, leading night marches from St. Paul's AME Church through the town. Speakers spoke on the Covington Square from the base of the confederate memorial.

The so-called "Newton Six" were jailed for more than 45 days, during the period of protest in spring of 1970. The Newton Six were considered the leaders of the movement in the county. They were: Joe Lightfoot, Leon Walker, Robert Johnson, Tyrone Brooks, Lloyd Jackson and Forrest Sawyer, Jr. Their imprisonment by Sherrif Henry Odem, Jr. was a significant, temporary setback for the movement. Nonetheless, by the Fall of 1970 the Newton County Hospital and public schools were desegregated, and African-Americans were able, for the first time, to enter stores on Covington Square through the front doors.

These events are commemorated through the "Black Easter March" each year in Covington. See Covington News report 2009.

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of "BLACK EASTER"

Background Resources on the Civil Rights movement:

For more information about the African-American Historical Association of Newton County, or to share information about the county's African-American history, please contact the association president Mr. Forrest Sawyer, Jr. (770) 788-0792.