January 7th, 1966
Tuskegee Students March to Protest Murder of SNCC Activist Samuel Younge Jr.
On January 7, 1966, 250 black students staged a march through downtown Tuskegee to protest the recent murder of Samuel “Sammy” Younge Jr. The march ended with a rally on the steps of the local jail where Younge’s accused killer, Martin Segrest, was being held.
In 1966, Younge was a 21-year-old black student activist at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). He was involved in the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League (TIAL) and worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register black voters in Mississippi.
On January 3, 1966, Samuel Younge spent the day helping black residents register to vote at the Macon County Court House in Tuskegee. While returning from a meeting with other civil rights workers, he stopped at the nearby Standard Oil gas station and asked the white attendant to use the bathroom. The attendant, 68-year-old Marvin Segrest, directed him to the “colored” restroom behind the station. When Younge said that he wanted to use the regular public restroom, Segrest took out a pistol and threatened to shoot him if he didn’t leave the property.
Younge got in his car and drove to City Hall, where he and reported what had happened to the police. He then drove to a bus station adjacent to the gas station, parked, and told Segrest that the police were coming. The two men began arguing and Segrest shot at Younge, missing him. Younge ran to board a nearby bus, telling the driver that his life was in danger; the driver attempted to intervene, walking to the gas station and urging Segrest not to fire any more shots at Younge. When the driver returned, Younge exited the bus, and was shot in the head by Segrest. He died that day.
The shooting brought to a head growing tensions in Tuskegee between African Americans and pro-segregation whites. The day following the shooting, Tuskegee University students launched protests that would last for weeks. Segrest was indicted and tried on second degree murder charges later that year, but acquitted by an all-white jury on December 8, 1966.