Pryceless Memories

As Marilyn Hoytt reflected on the recent Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, she recalled how the Movement touched her life when she was a college student and her name was Marilyn Pryce, which is why this blog is entitled Pryceless Memories.

(Scroll down this page for a Pryceless video).


Marilyn Pryce Hoytt

This past Martin Luther King Holiday, I learned that Rev. King, in his acceptance speech at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, gave credit to the masses of black people who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, today, we often overlook the courageous citizens who insured the success of the Movement. Many were young college students like me.

On October 19, 1960, I was a sophomore at Spelman College and was photographed with Martin Luther King, Jr. In the photo, we are on our way to jail following a sit-in at the elegant Magnolia Tea Room in Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Also featured in the photo is a Morehouse student leader. My roommate is hidden behind Rev. King, and only her purse appears. Little did I realize back then that this photo would become an icon of the Atlanta Student Sit-In Movement. However, as the years go by, I am increasingly amazed at the raw courage, fierce determination exhibited by the hundreds of students who demonstrated daily, went to jail and eventually brought down the Goliath of legally enforced segregation.

It was in 1960, following the lead of the Greensboro Four, that student-led sit-ins and other demonstrations occurred in over 100 American cities throughout the South. Black college students in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) organized and carried out sit-ins, marches and other demonstrations throughout the South in a fearless push to end the daily humiliation of forced use of segregated and inferior public facilities. The Atlanta Student Sit-In Movement involved students from the six schools in the Atlanta University Center. Strategically designed by student leaders, with the wise counsel of the HBCU presidents, this was arguably the largest and most successful sit-in movement bringing about desegregation in little over one year. In the iconic photo, I was a just a sophomore; a mere foot-soldier in the war against injustice.

In 2000, a similar photo was used to create a 30-foot high mural in the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Building constructed on the site of the old Rich’s Department Store. The United States Government Services Administration (GSA) honored veterans of the Movement with the presentation of a plaque in 2016. Former sit-in participants and organizers convened beneath the shadow of this mural to celebrate and recall incidents long past. Yet, although we had all been very successful in life, we may have dropped the ball of protest. Indeed, most of us had chosen instead to pursue the “money, marriage and mortgages” predicted to kill the Movement. But it is not too late. It may be that now is the time to pick up the ball of community advancement. By joining with millennials and other freedom-seekers, we can rekindle Rev. King’s dream and “[Help] justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” It is not too late for us to make a difference NOW!

In the video below, Marilyn discusses the circumstances surrounding the photograph.