Historic marker to honor Primus King, civil rights movement

The Georgia Historical Society will dedicate an historical marker commemorating Primus King and the civil rights movement Friday at 11 a.m. at the Government Center.

In 1944, King challenged the “whites only” primary in Georgia when he attempted to vote in the Democratic primary election, whhich marked the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in Georgia.

“Primus King’s legal challenge sparked a movement in Georgia that would ripple for generations to come,” said W. Todd Groce, president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “By ending the whites only primary, King opened the door for disenfranchised African-Americans to have a voice in the public square by way of the ballot box.”

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and City Manager Isaiah Hugley will be among the speakers at the dedication. Among the others will be Cindy Eidson, assistant tourism product development director for the Georgia Department of Economic Development; Elizabeth Barker, executive director of the Historic Columbus Foundation; Elyse Butler for the Georgia Historical Society; and Gary Sprayberry, chair of the department of history at Columbus State University.

The marker is being erected by the Georgia Historical Society, the city of Columbus, Historic Columbus, and the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

The marker reads: Primus King and the Civil Rights MovementThe modern Civil Rights Movement in Georgia began on July 4, 1944, when Primus E. King, an African-American barber and minister, attempted to vote at the Muscogee County Courthouse in the Democratic Party’s primary election, which barred blacks from participating. King, a registered voter, was roughly turned away by a law enforcement officer. With the encouragement and financial backing of local activist Dr. Thomas Brewer, King filed suit in Federal court in Macon, arguing that excluding black voters was unconstitutional. The court ruled in King’s favor, as did the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ending Georgia’s “whites only” primary. King’s challenge eliminated the legal barriers to black voting in Georgia’s state and local elections and set in motion a statewide black voter registration campaign that helped end disfranchisement and the system of Jim Crow discrimination.